Older Piggy Horse Not Eating As Much Hay - Any Ideas?
I'm in need of some ideas here. My hale-and-hardy 24 year old gelding recently stopped consuming his usual amount of hay. The vet did his teeth a few months ago.
He gets a nice (expensive!) 2nd cutting square bale hay. He is not picky at all. I was giving him 7 flakes overnight, and he cleaned it up completely. Then he went to barely eating three, with a lot of waste.
After living on roundbales his whole life, the 2nd cutting square bale hay was a real turn on.
At first I thought that maybe the feral cat peed on the hay in the shed, or something like that. But this is ongoing. He gobbles up his rice bran and/or senior feed as usual.
I have a call in to the vet, but wanted to see if there are any ideas.
Teeth are the 1st thing to look at again. He is at the age they start getting loose teeth and missing teeth. Infection....even get the hint of infection starting can back them off chewing time. A friends mare rammed hay/feed into the void of a missing tooth. Tho not really infected just the pressure and pain backed her off eating.
Choke is another possibly. Some horses are smart enough/in discomfort enough to not eat stemmier type feeds after a recent choke.
7 flakes overnight? The problem may be too much hay. That said, I do not know the size of the flakes. 2cnd cut is richer than first, and the horse may not need as much of it. For my bales of hay, horses get 3 or maybe 4 if they are small flakes overnight. Either way, it is approx. 1/3 of an average sized bale; if it is a very large bale maybe only a 1/4. But generally 1/3 of a bale of hay, and they will clean that up overnight. If I give them more, they typically don't eat it all.
My now 25 year old did this a couple of years ago. I thought maybe ulcers or teeth but it wasn't. I think her tastes changed as she aged and she just wasn't that into hay anymore, even though I also had gorgeous second cut hay that was soft. I make up for it with forage pellets and she eats what she wants.
Could just be an old horse thing, but I'd look into ulcers or teeth. Maybe do a round of omeprazole.
We have a 27 year old in the barn that did this recently. Teeth checked out, and was completely fine and happy other than he was wasting hay that he had previously been devouring. He did that for a few days, and then would go back to it. When we tracked the days we realized that temperature played a role... the warmer nights, he would eat much less, but colder nights, he'd eat everything in sight.
I like to just give the older guys a hay bag. That way if they have an off few days, it's not wasted hay. It can still be eaten the next night, or can be passed out to the other horses if it's been a few days.
I'd start with the vet, as you are, but then creativity comes into play.
Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.
If you have a large syringe you could try to rinse his mouth out with salt water a few times a day. My old guy will go off of hay and I will find that he has a wad stuck in the back. He will also do a lot of coughing up of hay when he needs this done. He did have a fractured tooth that the dentist found, but that was taken out and he still has issues.
I second the hay bag idea. The old ones seems to have up and down appetites. My oldest retiree gets a small net hay bag stuffed with soft yummy second cutting. Sometimes she eats every bite, sometimes she nibbles. Sometimes she eats all her mash (she gets quite a bit of BEEP, Fibergized, textured grain heavily soaked) and sometimes she will leave a cup or two behind.
While I make note of changes in eating habits, I don't get as worried as I used to. Cold snaps definately seem to ramp up the appetites.
Now changes in water consumption? Eeyeyeye!, Call the Vet if there is no apparent reason why they are not drinking.
I'd check his teeth. The very senior,almost ancient pony gets his done every 3 to 4 months now. He doesn't have much to float, but last time had to have a tooth pulled and will probably need to have another pulled the next time.