The senior horse population is, and has been, on the rise. But with increasing age comes the potential for health problems. So what are the best ways to ensure senior horses stay healthy all through their golden years?

Mary Rose Paradis, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Tufts, in N. Grafton, Mass., shared the following tips on how to maintain senior horses’ health.

"In the past 20 years, we appear to be seeing more horses over the age of 20 years in our hospital," Paradis said. "A small study indicated that from 1989 to 1999 we saw an almost sixfold increase in horses presenting with problems who were 20 years of age or older."

Paradis said that it can be difficult to determine if health problems seen in older horses are caused by age itself or by a disease process. Additionally, she said, "older horses have many of the same medical issues as young horses, but some conditions appear to increase with age."

She also noted that old horses appear to be more medicated than younger horses: "When owners were asked about the use of medications for chronic problems, 25% of old horses versus 6% of young horses were on regular medications," she said.

Nonetheless, "older horses can lead healthy lives into their 30s, particularly if care is taken to address the problems as soon as they’re recognized," Paradis said. Thus, she recommends that aging horses should have annual or biannual veterinary geriatric assessments, which include:

  • A thorough physical examination, focusing on body condition, dental wear, appetite,