“The Easy Keeper”
Let’s talk for a minute about obesity in horses. This is unfortunately an increasing problem, an unintended side effect of better nutrition, better health care, and less activity. While being an “easy keeper” is generally regarded as a positive thing (lower cost in feed bills and maintenance), the truth of the matter is that it poses serious health risks, just as in other species. Overweight horses are more predisposed to inflammatory conditions and lameness, since packing the extra pounds in hard on their joints and soft tissues. Additionally, and fairly unique to equines, is the risk of laminitis (founder), which goes up dramatically in the obese population. Laminitis is a very painful, debilitating, and potentially life-threatening disorder of the feet, which can render the horse permanently lame and unable to work. While laminitis may be treatable (depending on the severity of the case), the hooves are never the same after a bout of founder, and the horse is always predisposed to future relapses. Therefore, prevention is the best medicine, and that starts with keeping your horse at a reasonable weight.
Some horses are overweight simply because they are overfed and underworked, but many others have underlying medical disorders, such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). A veterinary consultation can help determine your horse’s body condition and specific risks. Depending on his or her history, the veterinarian may recommend blood tests to rule out things like EMS or Cushing’s disease, as well as to look at general systemic health. Some horses require medications to treat endocrine disorders or encourage weight loss, while others will most benefit from increased exercise and reduced calories, without the need for specific drugs. At Fox Creek Veterinary Hospital, we are happy to help you with diagnosis of endocrine disorders, nutrition consultation, and advice regarding therapeutic options that may benefit your horse. Please give us a call at 636-458-6569 to set up an appointment to discuss your horse’s unique needs.