If you own a horse or a stable of horses, keeping them healthy should be your top priority. Even if you perform your due diligence to make sure your horse remains in good shape, they may still encounter an illness or injury from some sort of neglect, exposure to something in the environment, weather conditions or other circumstances that may be out of your control.
The good thing about horses is that most are blessed with great physical strength and can withstand minor issues or ailments without a problem, but there are sicknesses when can debilitate a horse and make their strong stature no match for the illness.
As a caretaker of a horse, it is your responsibility to regularly observe your horse and check how they are feeling so you can pinpoint and recognize signs or symptoms that show that your horse is unwell. If you do detect something that is wrong, you should then be quick to act, whether through a remedy you can apply or taking your horse to see their vet.
Below we will share with you the most common horse health issues that may arise, how the ailment comes about and it’s symptoms and what you can to address the problem and nurse your horse back to good health.
7 Common Horse Health Problems You can Detect and Treat
Colic is a generalized term which means a bellyache or some sort of abdominal pain in your horse. Most of the time it is associated with the stomach, the small intestine or large intestine but it can also come from other parts of the abdominal cavity.
There can be a variety of causes of colic in a horse which ranges from something minor like constipation or indigestion to more of a serious issue where there is a twist in the gut that will require some sort of surgical procedure to get them back to normal and comfortable.
While it is not a disease, colic has been cited as one of the biggest threats to horses if it is not addressed in a timely manner. The reason why Colic is so common may be because horses intestine, unlike humans, are not firmly attached in one place but can actually move around in their body as they eat and graze and these there can be times where it can twist or there can be some sort of blockage due to movement.
So what are the signs of colic? Horses that are experiencing colic you will be able to immediately notice that they are not their usual self because of the painfulness of colic. They will typically paw at the ground and become distracted or roll on the ground in discomfort. As the colic progresses, the horse may begin to sweat, curl their lip and stretch around, behaving irritably because they want relief.
If you notice these symptoms, you should take them to see the veterinarian before things get worse. The vet may suggest some pain reliever or handle the issue medically. If the gut is twisted up severely, surgery will have to occur to untwist the intestine.
Osteoarthritis (commonly shortened to arthritis) is another common issue that comes up with horses and can result in horse’s becoming stiff and not moving well. It is a degenerative joint disease that leads to inflammation of the joint and degradation of the joints that can affect mobility.
There are many different causes that a horse will come down with arthritis. Most of the time it can be due to aging and the level of activity the horse undergoes, but young horses can also come down with arthritis. Arthritis is a progressive disease that unfortunately has no cure but there are things that can be done to manage it to ensure that the disease doesn’t detrimentally affect the horse’s quality of life.
Some symptoms of arthritis include stiff walking, laying down more than normal, having difficulty rising after they have been laying down and not wanting to move around as much. Other horses may refuse to go in certain directions or will not perform certain movements that they could do previously.
Treating arthritis involves reducing inflammation and pain and preventing further damage in your horse. Part of arthritis treatment is making sure to keep your horse’s weight done as this will put less pressure on the joints. Regular exercise is also crucial to allow horses to move around and promote blood flow throughout their body. Heavy bedding installed in the stall is also something that can help lessen inflammation and give your horse more comfort.
Finally, oral supplements should also be given to your horse known as joint nutraceuticals. These products include nutrients such as glucosamine that can help to reduce inflammation in the joints so they can resume their normal functions.
Known fully as Degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis or DSLD, desmitis is a painful inflammation of the suspensory ligament in horses, located just above the horses foot, between the knee and the ankle. The suspensory ligament prevents overextension of the fetlock joint and acts as a spring, enabling the horse to make sudden movements.
Desmitis is common in many active horses, especially Standardbreds, Thoroughbreds and warmbloods. As the ligament inflames, it can be very painful and uncomfortable for the horse which you will see via the horse showing symptoms such as limping, swelling of the area, poor performance or even lameness.
Desmitis is often diagnosed either via checking out the limb for inflammation via ultrasound or by performing an MRI on the horse.
The best treatment for Desmitis is resting the horse and anti-inflammatory medication as suggested by a veterinarian. In other cases, shockwave therapy or injections of platelet-rich plasma have shown to make a difference.
Laminitis is one of the most common painful conditions for horses that can render them disabled if the issue becomes severe enough. Laminitis literally means an inflammation of the laminae of the horse’s hoof. Laminae consists of the soft tissue that’s located between the horse’s hoof wall and the coffin bone. They are tiny, fingerlike in structure and help to keep the coffin bone in place.
When the bloodflow to the laminae is disrupted, inflammation occurs to weaken the laminae and will make it difficult to hold the coffin bone in place, and thus you have a horse with laminitis. This process is terribly painful to the horse and results in lameness and poor movement in the horse and can affect all feet. If not treated quickly or in a proper manner, it may cause permanent damage where you may have to put down your horse.
You can check for signs of laminitis by checking the heart rate of your horse and feeling their hooves to see if they are in heat. If they are shifting their weight left and right and look like they are walking on eggshells, they may likely have a problem. A reluctance to walk is another sign that they need to be treated for laminitis.
After seeing a veterinarian, they may suggest a sole support to the hoof to provide immediate relief. Follow your vet’s instructions carefully as treatment will vary depending on the severity level of the laminitis.
Gastric Ulcers are wounds in the lining of the stomach of a horse caused by acid. The acid production is normal but abnormal amounts can be produced over some stress that the horse is going through which may result in the ulcers. Some factors that can be the cause of stress include a change in diet, less turnout time, a change in routine, travel or prolonged intense exercise.
Some symptoms of gastric ulcers in horses include poor appetite and fussiness, weight loss, rough hair coat, frequent drinking while eating, poor performance and recurrent colic. It is important to know that the severity level of the symptoms may not be a good indicator of the severity of the gastric ulcers as there can be come horses that have severe ulcers but show very few of these symptoms.
To treat ulcers is via proton pump inhibitor given once daily and is the treatment of choice by most veterinarians. You will have to check with your vet for specific treatment instructions. To prevent gastric ulcers in the future, avoid your horse going through long periods without food by feeding them frequent small meals.
Much like humans, horses do also suffer from the common cold. Horses can come down with a cold by catching the viral infection from another horse or if they are kept in a stable that has poor ventilation or unsanitary conditions. Horses can also catch colds when they are in close proximity to horses that they are normally not used to being around such as when performing at shows or coming in contact with horses from another part of the country.
The biggest indicator of a horse having the common cold is white or yellow mucus discharge coming out of their nose. They also may have a higher temperature and have swollen glands in their throat.
A vet should be called immediately to check out the horse. They will normally suggest to isolate the horse away from other horses so the sickness doesn’t spread. They will also be need to kept in a warm place that is well ventilated and dust-free. Soft food should be provided that is easy to swallow and digest such as soaked hay. They should also have their own water supply and not drink from public areas where other horses drink.
Back pain on horses can come from muscles or the bone and can be very debilitating to horses if not addressed quickly and given the proper care. Back pain is usually an issue for performance horses that compete on a regular basis or those horses that are ridden regularly.
Symptoms of horse back pain can be noticed by changes in their performance, the unwillingness to want to be saddled up and ridden, swishing of their tail and annoyance when you want them to work. While these can be clear, finding out where the pain is located and finding out the cause of the pain can be tougher and will require a veterinarian to check out the horse and pinpoint the pained areas.
A vet will look at certain pressure points to see what the horse will react to as well as check how the rider positions themselves when riding the horse, their shoes, the fit of their tack and other factors like analyzing the horses’ posture.
Treatment of a horse with back pain can range from just giving a few days of rest to the horse, prescription pain relief medication or for severe problems, an injection or mesotherapy to give relief to the horse.
These are just a few of the common horse health problems which you may encounter with your equine animal so if down the road your horse has exhibited any of the symptoms, you are well prepared on how to check for the symptoms and get an idea of what some of the treatment options will be to get your horse back to good health.
As always, prevention is better than the cure so by giving your horse adequate exercise, a healthy diet, proper rest and caring for their living conditions, you will have a horse that will not go through any of these issues discussed.