What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Starving or Very Thin Horse


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.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • To discuss your equine's general health and management.

your role


What To Do

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. You can start by offering the horse .5% of body weight of grass hay as the first meal (5 lbs or 2.2 kg) 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.

your vet's role

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 and safe plan for weight gain.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • What is the horse's history?
  • What has the horse's diet been?
  • Is the horse fed alone or with other horses?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP