Five Tips to Keep Horses Healthier this Winter

Get tips from a veterinarian on keeping horses healthy and safe during the cold days of winter.
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With temperatures dropping to single digits this week, Michelle D. Harris, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, lecturer in the Section of Emergency and Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, offers the following tips to keep horses healthy and safe during the cold days of winter.

1. More Calories: People sometimes joke about “bulking up for winter,” but for horses that live outside, increasing calories is a very real need because it takes more calories to keep warm. High-quality hay is the foundation of any healthy diet, and boosting calories through an increase of the hay ration is a healthier option than increasing the grain ration. Older horses that are unable to consume their calories from hay due to dental disease might need another calorie source, such as corn oil. Horse owners should consult with a veterinarian about dietary management during the cold winter months.

2. Water, Not Ice: Horses need abundant fresh water, even when it is cold outside. Owners should check several times daily to make sure the water source is not frozen. There are numerous types of heating units, made specifically for this purpose, to ensure that your horse has fresh, unfrozen water available at all times.

3. Fresh Air: Keeping your horse in a warm barn with the doors and windows shut is not necessarily a good thing. A closed-up barn increases your horse’s exposure to airborne dust and allergens. A well-ventilated barn, even if it means a drop of a few degrees in temperature, will keep the air fresher and healthier for your horse. If your horse has a non-infectious respiratory disease such as recurrent airway obstruction (also known as heaves) or inflammatory airway disease, it is particularly unhealthy for the horse to be inside the barn since exposure to high levels of particles in the air can trigger a flare-up of respiratory signs. Invest in a warm weatherproof blanket and leave a horse with airway disease turned out with access to a run-in shed for shelter

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