Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Starving or Very Thin Horse

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • To discuss your equine's general health and management.

Severely starved or emaciated horses often require special care to rehabilitate. A common problem is overfeeding a starved horse too quickly, which can cause intestinal problems, abdominal pain (colic), laminitis, or re-feeding syndrome.

Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) paying particular attention to heart rate, rectal temperature, respiratory rate and body condition and share your findings and concerns with your vet.

A vet should evaluate the horse to determine whether their weight loss is not caused by an underlying illnesses. Your vet’s findings may also provide valuable information to inform nutrition and management decisions going forward. Your vet can also help you develop an appropriate plan for weight gain.

You can start by offering the horse .5% of body weight of grass hay as the first meal (5 lbs for 1000 lb horse).

What Not To Do

Do not immediately vaccinate or deworm horses in poor body condition. Allow time for their strength to develop.

Do not drastically change their feed in hopes of increasing their weight quickly.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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