When I evaluate older horses, I often begin by asking: “Is there underlying disease or is this just aging?”
The problems seen in aging horses are similar to those seen in aging humans. Age-related degeneration ultimately affects all body systems. Oxidation ultimately damages proteins and the very molecules that make up the body structure.
With respect to the gastro-intestinal system, very old horses have often worn through their entire reserve crown. If the teeth are still present, their grinding function has diminished. Even if a horse can adequately grind feed, their intestines are less able to digest and assimilate nutrients.
Older horses also have a high incidence of hormonal conditions, notably PPID. Chronic arthritis is extremely common in aging horses. Different types of horses show degenerative changes in the areas that were overloaded during a life of work. Spinal compression from arthritic vertebral joints are also common. Eyesight also declines with age.
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