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Treating weight loss in older horses

Older horses commonly experience gradual periods of weight loss.

There are many health factors associated with aging horses that all trainers need to be aware of. One of the more pressing issues common with older horses is significant weight loss. While there are several reasons a horse can become underweight, progressive weight loss in older horses is often attributed to an underlying medical condition. To help your aging horse continue to live a healthy and productive life, knowing the various dietary adjustments and understanding which ailments to keep an eye out for can effectively address issues of weight loss. Take a look at how you can manage and treat an underweight older horse:

Possible causes
Whenever you start to notice gradual weight loss with an aging horse, there are a few health concerns that could be the underlying cause to the problem. Dental issues are common in older horses, which, in turn, impact how a horse chews, swallows and digests its food. Whether it’s tooth loss, gum disease or other oral-related ailment, this disability can cause ineffective digestion within the gastrointestinal tract. Give your horse a thorough teeth inspection, and look for any signs of decay, missing molars or any other irregularities. Consult with your veterinarian or equine Dentist if you suspect there are issues, and you may have to resort to dietary changes to compensate poor dental health, such as providing chopped hay for your horse.

Older horses are less effective at absorbing the essential nutrients necessary to maintain a sufficient weight. This can be attributed to changes in metabolism or gradually becoming less active through aging. Adding horse supplements to your animal’s diet can promote healthier vitamin and mineral intake for a horse. Ultra Fire™ is a powder supplement that can encourage healthy nutrient consumption, and was even voted as “Supplement of the Year” by Perfect Horse Magazine. Always speak to your veterinarian prior to changing an older horse’s diet to make sure these adjustments appropriately fit with the animal’s dietary needs.

Helping older horses gain weight
If you and your veterinarian have come to the conclusion that there’s nothing clinically wrong with your older horse, but it’s still underweight, there are numerous strategies that can prove effective for solving this dilemma. More often than not, upping the nutritional quality of a horse’s feeding hay may give it the extra calories, as well as vitamins and minerals it needs to pack on a few more pounds. Alfalfa hay in particular is easily chewed by older horses while adding extra calories to its meal without having to increase the amount of hay it’s used to eating.

A common misconception to help a horse gain weight is to increase the quantity of its feed, when in reality you’ll want to make sure you up the vitamin and mineral intake. A healthy senior horse should essentially have the same nutritional requirements as younger horses. However, if digestive complications don’t allow it to properly absorb nutrients, supplement intervention may be necessary. Talk to your equine nutritionist about which specific vitamins and minerals your older horse may be lacking, and find a product that can help replenish it. You can also consider switching to a feed that has more fat, and there are also feeds that are specifically created for senior horses, which usually have ingredients that promote weight gain.

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