Geriatric Wellness Care
Through better veterinary care, dentistry, and attention to proper diet, horses are living well into their thirties. With that age comes special care though, and our practice is very attentive to the special needs of senior horses. From dentistry and specialized feeding plans to arthritis care, our goal is to make your horse as comfortable as possible during his or her golden years. After all your horse has done for you during his life, he deserves the best care as he ages!
Senior dentistry is often the most difficult and intensive out of all the cases we see. As a practice with a strong focus on dentistry though, we have a large amount of experience working on the challenges that come with aging teeth. Besides the more "normal" dental problems such as sharp points, seniors often suffer from loose teeth and extensive soft tissue disease, both of which can be extremely painful. We utilize the most advanced equipment available to treat these diseases and to make your horse's mouth as comfortable as possible.
This image shows the aged teeth of a 27 year old horse. This horse was of a good weight and showed no signs of dental problems, yet on exam, had significant dental pathology including very worn occlusal (chewing) surfaces and very overgrown teeth.
Like dentistry, the nutritional needs of senior horses are unique and must be addressed properly if a proper weight is to be maintained. After performing a thorough dental exam, we are better able to create individual nutritional recommendations for each horse. Senior diets often mainly consist of "senior" feeds, but many other feed options are available depending on the severity of dental disease. Proper nutrition is an essential part of our senior exams.
Most senior horses suffer from arthritis of some degree. While some may show slight stiffness, others may become non-weight bearing due to severe arthritic changes. Just like younger horses, senior horses may benefit from joint injections, prescription joint therapies, shoeing and trimming changes, and enviromental management. Each horse is individually examined and a treatment plan is taylored to his or her needs. Many arthritis treatment options are available, so most budgets can support some level of relief from this painful condition.
Hyaluronic acid injection in the stifle for treatment of severe arthritis in a senior horse
Many senior horses with extensive arthritis have a lot of discomfort during the process of trimming. We have provided our portable stocks to help these horses receive the hoof care they need in a more comfortable fashion. We provide mild sedation to help with the safety of both the horse and handlers, and they are able to lean on the stocks and the support straps to take the weight off their arthritic areas.
Many seniors are dealing with a lifetime of care that has led to severe diseases. Horses with a lifetime of obesity are often insulin-resistant, contributing to laminitis and hoof abscess. Older horses are more likely to have diseases such as Cushing's, which is similarly associated with laminitis and abscesses as well as a less responsive immune system. Many different tests are available to determine each horse's status and care needed, and we also intensively manage laminitis cases through resolution of both clinical signs and until the desired results are achieved within the hoof.
Severe laminitis in a miniature horse
We were called out see Fortune, who was an underweight senior horse with chronic nasal discharge. His owner felt he was suffering too much and thought it would be best to euthanize him, but we convinced Fortune's mom to let us give him a try! Through feed changes, dentistry, and medications, we were able to get weight back on him and clear up his nasal discharge. He has since run off with his mom several times and is altogether a new horse!
Charlie is one of our biggest patients, and presented to us with nasal discharge which was caused by an infected tooth. It took a team effort for this big boy, but we extracted the affected tooth and flushed his sinus to remove the infected material. Charlie became a different, and much more friendly horse almost immediately after the extraction, and has since put on quite a bit of weight (in fact, he is currently on a diet). Charlie now lives at Barnabas Foundation where he helps victims of abuse learn to cope with their challenges. For more information on Charlie, or to donate to his fund at Barnabas, click here.
To the right, you can see Charlie's radiograph, showing the abscess located at the root of the affected tooth.