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Senility/dementia in Horses?

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  • Senility/dementia in Horses?

    I tried doing a search but didn't see much on the topic.

    I was wondering if anyone has much knowledge on whether horses suffer from dementia and how others have dealt with it if so...

    We have a 25+ year old Danish WB gelding who has given so many great years to so many. He has competed everywhere, trail ridden the best and snuggles wonderfully.

    He has soundness issues but we have managed them, his teeth are horrible and his eyesight is questionable, but up until recently he has always been perky, vocal & happy.

    I go every day at lunch and call him in from the field for his lunch of wet gruel, he knows the routine and waits by the gate for my truck then follows me along the fenceline to the barn. Today he was out napping at the far side of the field, I called him, he looked, nickered turned and started walking. I realized he was not keeping up and turned around and he was just staring off into space and didnt acknowledge me even when I got to the barn & shook feed.

    This is not the first time that it seems like he has been disoriented and the episodes are becoming more frequent. I just have never experienced things like this, he is a routine type of guy and for him to forget his routines (especially the food oriented ones) makes me worry.

    My husband & I wrestle with decisions on him daily as far as his quality of life. Honestly until recently I could hop on him & do a little trail ride and we manage his diet and he thrives weight wise & energy wise. However he had to be seperated from his herd and be in a field where there is no chance he can get a scrap of hay or he will choke. We worry constantly about his neighbors "sharing" with him. Now that he is alone more I worry about his state of mind. I notice he has become more aggressive with the other horses (he always was such a mush).

    Sorry for the length here, just not sure what is relevent info & what is not and I do not want something bad to happen to my boy, nor so I want his quality of life to decline.

    I guess I am just looking for others to share how they handled situations such as these. TIA.

  • #2
    As I posted in the other thread about senility, I think my 27 year old Holsteiner gelding is getting dementia. Like yours he will sometimes just stop and stare as if he is not quite sure he remembers what he is supposed to do, he sometimes looks at his usual food as if it were Martian poop.

    I just keep an eye on him, he is comfortable, and his intermittent confusion does not seem to bother him. Sometimes after he has been staring into space, he gives a little shake, and comes back to the present- kind of like "doh! that is what I forgot"

    Comment


    • #3
      My 30 yr old gelding always just follows his buddy into the barn. No lead line. He knows where his stall is and puts himself up. Occasionally, he will just stop and look at all the stalls and can't seem to figure out where his is. If he passes his stall on those days, he just stands there like.... "ah, hum. now what was I doing?" Then like MDoodle said....he just sorta comes back into the present.

      Comment


      • #4
        Can you find a pasture mate for him, maybe someone with the same requirements. He may need the stimulation of touch and smell, since he has lost his other sensations. Kind of like solitary confinement in prison, he may need more sensory input. Poor guy, I hope it works out for you and him.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thanks for your replies. I am thinking of putting one of the chubby ponies in with him as they could do without so much hay anyway. He is not completely in isolation he can reach over his stall to the other horses and over the paddock fences. I have been putting the pony in a small paddock next to his field, so maybe I should just put them together.

          Comment


          • #6
            My 29 yr old + gelding is losing it I think...

            He is not happy anywhere - inside or out. He spends a lot of time fence walking, whinnying or pacing in the stall. He is able to go in and out at will, has plenty of hay and has a buddy, a mare (the same companion for 17 yrs who just watches his antics and wants nothing to do with it)...He is extremely attached to her so trying to separate and turn out with another is not an option.

            He's never been easy to deal with and has been nasty many times during the 20 yrs he's been with me, but nothing like this.

            He is driving all the other horses nuts too...kicking at the fencing so that they kick back and of course the others are the ones that break the boards, his ears are pinned and he is agressive.

            I just put a call into my Vet and am seriously thinking of putting him down. This behavior can't go on long term. I am concerned for my other horses who are getting very stressed over this situation!

            Anyone had any similar experience?

            Comment


            • #7
              A neighbor of mine had a 30-ish QH gelding that began showing signs of senility, and went downhill very quickly. He would do the stop and look around like he was confused, etc, as described by others, and it got to the point where he would literally "forget" to drink, even though he had a buddy with him that he followed around since his eyesight wasn't good anymore. If his owner walked up to him with water, he'd drink, otherwise he would just stand there while his buddy drank from the trough. His owner made the painful decision to have him put down. I think it's just the same as people-- some get it, some are still wisecracking to the end. Good luck with your old guy!

              Comment


              • #8
                My 27 year old, who I had put down last fall, wasn't senile to the point of forgetting where she was, but she had this sort of goofy look on her face a lot, whereas she had been fierce and proud before. During her last year, I would take her on short leisurely trailrides at a walk and on the last trailride I did with her, she became very anxious for no reason, and I got the feeling that although it may have not have been physically too much for her, it was mentally too taxing.

                In her last few months, she was in a pasture with a mare her own age and a few non-threatening ponies and those two mares became so close, it was touching. They really looked after each other and it gave my mare confidence. It really was the best and happiest situation for her.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think it happens

                  My old show hunter, before he died, had similar episodes. I'd open all the gates so everyone could run down the hill to the pastures, he was always first. Some days, he'd just stand there with the gate open and a confused look on his face.

                  The last month of his life, he became more confused and stopped galloping in his fields, this a horse that ran everywhere, everyday of his life.

                  That made the decision for me.

                  He died with dignity.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My old horse wasn't mentally "off" but he needed a huge quantity of senior feed and a lot of time to eat it. He wouldn't eat in a stall....one reason all mine are now accustomed to time spent in a stall...didn't like being alone and couldn't be with the other horses who would steal his food.

                    I got him some goats and sheep but his best bud was my Great Pyr guard dog.
                    I wasn't always a Smurf
                    Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
                    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

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                    • #11
                      My mare is 25 years old doesnt show any signs of senility shes as sharp as she was when alot younger. When i bring her in for her meals she goes right to her own stall. I havent had to lead her in the barn for years i just open the gate and in she goes. She is with another horse whos younger then her but she doesnt let him push her around. When hay is put in feeder she picks which side shes eating on then my gelding get to eat where she isnt.At times she wont let him near the feeder because shes being onery.

                      Shes the boss of the two and when the gelding doesnt move out of her way he gets two hind feet planted on him.But they are buddys for the most part she whinnys when he goes out riding. Took her riding the other day and the old gal is still a great ride. Hadnt taken her for two years now she begs to go every time i get my gelding out.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MintHillFarm View Post
                        My 29 yr old + gelding is losing it I think...

                        He is not happy anywhere - inside or out. He spends a lot of time fence walking, whinnying or pacing in the stall. He is able to go in and out at will, has plenty of hay and has a buddy, a mare (the same companion for 17 yrs who just watches his antics and wants nothing to do with it)...He is extremely attached to her so trying to separate and turn out with another is not an option.

                        He's never been easy to deal with and has been nasty many times during the 20 yrs he's been with me, but nothing like this.

                        He is driving all the other horses nuts too...kicking at the fencing so that they kick back and of course the others are the ones that break the boards, his ears are pinned and he is agressive.

                        I just put a call into my Vet and am seriously thinking of putting him down. This behavior can't go on long term. I am concerned for my other horses who are getting very stressed over this situation!

                        Anyone had any similar experience?
                        I knew a horse who acted similarly. She ended up putting a seemingly "healthy" horse down at 21 because she went from sweet to viciously agressive. She was running other horses through the fence - these were her foals, so it wasn't like she hadn't known them forever.

                        Owner said it was the best choice, because she'd said good bye to her horse before the horse was physically gone. The mare just wasn't there anymore.

                        I wish I had something more definitive, but that's all I have.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Monokeros View Post
                          I knew a horse who acted similarly. She ended up putting a seemingly "healthy" horse down at 21 because she went from sweet to viciously agressive. She was running other horses through the fence - these were her foals, so it wasn't like she hadn't known them forever.

                          Owner said it was the best choice, because she'd said good bye to her horse before the horse was physically gone. The mare just wasn't there anymore.

                          I wish I had something more definitive, but that's all I have.
                          Usually if a mare turns aggressive...its more likely the result of a tumor on the ovary and not dementia .......my vet had a very sweet mare in her practice turn stallion like and very aggressive......they found a tumor on her ovary.

                          Dalemma

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            We had a 28 year old appy gelding, he seemed to be out of it which was fine and we just watched him closely. He did end up getting aggressive though. He was put down because one minute he was his normal self and the next seemed like he was truly trying to kill you.

                            A boarder I have is a 24 year old QH, he is showing some of the confustion and forgetting the routine. I'm hoping he doesn't get to the aggressive phase because not owning him would make any resolution take longer. Meaning, how would you explain this to the owner who visits once a month... I just don't see that going well!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Yes, 30ish gelding who was always laid back. But never checked out until the last few months. He still stuck to his routine for the most part but we owned him for over 12 of those years, so you see the times they seem to forget and the confusion over the simplest of things. This was a horse that would hold his stall door shut on crappy days that he did not want to go outside and always pick the shortest trail to the parking lot of the weekend rides. Only to dissolve into a horse that would have trouble finding the gate back in from pasture to the barn.

                              His body gave out before his mind was beyond hope and he was humanely euth'ed. Still miss that one terribly tho. He was a good horse.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Monokeros View Post
                                I knew a horse who acted similarly. She ended up putting a seemingly "healthy" horse down at 21 because she went from sweet to viciously agressive. She was running other horses through the fence - these were her foals, so it wasn't like she hadn't known them forever.

                                Owner said it was the best choice, because she'd said good bye to her horse before the horse was physically gone. The mare just wasn't there anymore.

                                I wish I had something more definitive, but that's all I have.
                                Thanks, I feel a little better that someone else has had a similar experience, though I am sorry too for what they had to go thru. This horse is very sound as well which makes it so much harder to decide to put him down!

                                He's thin, but eats well and has a good appetite. A former very serious cribber, he now has virtually no upper teeth so he stopped do that as it must have begun to hurt. He manages his hay and Senior feed very well. I wish he would just chill and hang out! He spends his calories on being way too active with all that pacing and whinnying.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Very rarely, we've had a few who exhibit similar symptoms to what you describe; disorientation that could make you wonder whether their eyes, ears, or both might be going.
                                  I've also had "oldest old" whose check ligaments don't talk to their brains so well; don't "surprise" them when you pick up a leg!

                                  More often, I've seen "elders" begin an obsessive behavior we hadn't seen before. For one it was a feeding issue we solved, but often there isn't a reason you can find.

                                  I DO believe that as they approach the "outer limits" they can sometimes have TIA's (mini-strokes) just like people. My vet thinks so, too. Sometimes this can be the precursor to an imminent neurological episode with profound ataxia, etc.

                                  Had one, though, that turned out to have Lyme and responded fabulously to Doxy. I've also heard that for people feeding round-bales, botulism can do this.

                                  Just to throw out some ideas . . . most of our crew of 22 are over the age of 25, and many are TB's.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I have a pony in his 40s who has a handful of really bad days a year (for the last couple of years) where he almost seems like he's had a stroke. He's normally very opinionated, likes his routine, has a good appetite etc. On his bad days he doesn't come to the gate at feeding time, walks extremely slowly when I come to get him, eats only a little or nothing, and just seems "checked out". Generally within 6-8 hours he seems a bit better, and by the next day he's almost normal. I can't tell if he's just having bad days-- and if so 5-6 a year isn't too bad-- or if there's more going on, but since he never seems distressed or painful I haven't pursued it.

                                    Originally posted by SwampYankee View Post
                                    Very rarely, we've had a few who exhibit similar symptoms to what you describe; disorientation that could make you wonder whether their eyes, ears, or both might be going.
                                    I've also had "oldest old" whose check ligaments don't talk to their brains so well; don't "surprise" them when you pick up a leg!

                                    More often, I've seen "elders" begin an obsessive behavior we hadn't seen before. For one it was a feeding issue we solved, but often there isn't a reason you can find.

                                    I DO believe that as they approach the "outer limits" they can sometimes have TIA's (mini-strokes) just like people. My vet thinks so, too. Sometimes this can be the precursor to an imminent neurological episode with profound ataxia, etc.

                                    Had one, though, that turned out to have Lyme and responded fabulously to Doxy. I've also heard that for people feeding round-bales, botulism can do this.

                                    Just to throw out some ideas . . . most of our crew of 22 are over the age of 25, and many are TB's.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Dalemma View Post
                                      Usually if a mare turns aggressive...its more likely the result of a tumor on the ovary and not dementia .......my vet had a very sweet mare in her practice turn stallion like and very aggressive......they found a tumor on her ovary.

                                      Dalemma
                                      She had other symptoms, including collapsing instead of laying down (like she'd get drowsy and BAM down) and the same kind of "spacing out" others were talking about. She also went from steady-eddy to very spooky and agitated. Ovary tumors and eye problems were ruled out.

                                      We're not really sure what it was. Again, it wasn't my horse so I don't know exactly though

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