Reasons for performing study: Geriatric horses (aged ≥15 years) represent a substantial proportion of the equine population, yet very few studies have investigated the prevalence of diseases within the UK equine geriatric population.
Objectives: To describe the provision of routine preventive health care measures, prevalence of clinical signs of disease and the prevalence of owner reported diseases. Additionally, the effect of increasing age on the provision of preventive health care and the presence or absence of clinical signs and disease was assessed.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted, surveying a randomly selected sample of veterinary registered owners with horses aged ≥15 years, using a self-administered postal questionnaire.
Results: As geriatric horses increased in age, there was a reduction in the provision of preventive health care measures, such as vaccination, farrier care and routine veterinary checks. Only 68.7% of horses had received a routine veterinary visit within the previous 12 months. Owners frequently observed clinical signs in their animals, with 77% reporting at least one clinical sign of disease. Increasing age was associated with increased reporting of many clinical signs of disease. Over half (58%) of horses had at least one episode of disease within the previous 12 months, yet only 31% of owners reported that their animal currently suffered from a known disease or disorder.
Conclusions and potential relevance: Although owners frequently observed clinical signs in their aged horse, there may be incorrect or under recognition of many diseases and health problems. Reduced frequency of routine preventive health care measures, along with suboptimal owner recognition of health and welfare problems may lead to compromised welfare in the geriatric population.