Not Just Old Age: Why Do Senior Horses Die?

Despite the growing body of research into senior horses’ health, their exact causes of death remain poorly documented.

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Thanks to improved equine management and husbandry knowledge, along with committed owners, horses are now living longer and healthier lives than they have, on the whole, in the past. Still, as much as we’d like our horses to live forever, they all will pass on to greener pastures eventually.

Despite the growing body of research into senior horses’ health, the exact causes of death and the most important diseases that older equids suffer from remain poorly documented. In fact, “old age” alone is often listed as the reason for death or euthanasia.

“To provide better care to aged horses, we need a better understanding of what diseases they suffer and to determine the actual cause of death rather than simply ascribing it to old age,” explained Margaret (Peg) Miller, DVM, PhD, from Purdue University’s Department of Comparative Pathobiology and Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Indiana.

To that end, Miller and colleagues conducted comprehensive post-mortem examinations on 241 horses that were 15 years of age or older

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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