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Need suggestions for geriatric horse

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  • Need suggestions for geriatric horse

    The horse in question is approx 35 years old. Up until last week he was happily eating soaked timothy/alfalfa cubes and Triple Crown Senior 3-4x daily. He was looking great and acting like a much younger horse. A little less than a week ago, his appetite dramatically dropped off, except he was showing interest in grass and the little bit of fine hay we give him every day (this is strictly to keep him busy as he can only manage to eat about a large handful daily). The vet was out today- his remaining teeth are a mess, and he has a good amount of root exposure on most of the ones that are left. He floated the sharp edges and could not find anything else wrong with the horse.

    I'm looking for suggestions as to how to get this horse eating well again. We're hoping that if his mouth feels better, his appetite will pick up and he will start eating the things that will actually keep weight on him. I've been grazing him as much as possible, but he cannot eat enough grass to sustain life. He was given some bute tonight since his mouth must be pretty sore, but I'm worried that this will not be enough. Does anyone have any experience with a situation like this or suggestions as to how to get him to eat more? He's looking for food at this point, but I'm guessing his mouth is too uncomfortable to eat much.

    At this point I've tried chopped forage, alfalfa pellets, beet pulp, molasses. We're tried different combos too- dry,soaked,etc. Any ideas would be appreciated.

  • #2
    My 31 year-old has similar issues. When it's "grass season" - that's all he wants. He was eating soaked timothy cubes mixed with 15 qts of grain daily - he is now eating a handful for breakfast and then standing at his door screaming to go out. He has virtually no teeth and doesn't even swallow the grass. He chews it up, sucks all the good taste out, then spits it out. He has noticeably dropped weight in the past few weeks. He does get three meals a day and he generally eats more of dinner and his bedtime snack. I'm just going to wait it out - he does this in the spring.


    • #3
      Interesting, my 29 year old mare, Pody, has been doing the same thing this spring. Wants to graze, comes in for pellets and only eats a small amount before yelling to go out. Our horses are usually out 24/7 except for Pody, who comes in to eat her senior and alfalfa pellets. She'll stay in and eat a little bit longer if I bring the other horses in the barn and put them in the stalls next to her.

      I've been putting soybean oil on her food so she gets a few more calories out of what she does eat, and thankfully our pasture is pretty rich, so she's actually maintaining her weight pretty well.

      No real wisdom from me, but you have my sympathy. Hopefully any soreness from the floating and the novelty of the spring grass will wear off soon, and get him back to eating for you.
      "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
      -Edward Hoagland


      • Original Poster

        Good news- we think he has an abscessed tooth. After the vet came on Monday, he was not interested in food or water at all. But there was a new symptom- a horrible stench from his mouth. We started on penicillin injections per vet orders and have been injecting some banamine as well. He drank a whole bucket of water yesterday and today is interested in grass again (tho nor grain or cubes or beet pulp). As long as continues to improve we're going to keep the abx going and have the vet back out to see if he can find which tooth is the culprit. Hopefully we can have it pulled and he can go back to his normal self.


        • #5
          We just soak the pelleted senior feed in water and I add some molasses. My 35 year old just slurps it up. I also have another that loves his pelleted feed soaked in a beer.


          • #6
            Has anyone tried feedbags? Meaning strap it on and let him back in the field and come back in 45 mins to take it off? Too much work? Wont eat it anyway? Choking?
            P.S. I rarely hear of anyone using a feedbag these days and was wondering why.


            • #7
              If he's been eating nicely until a week ago then yes, the teeth are probably the culprit. Make sure the feed product you are using hasn't changed textures, smells, etc. Many companies use a least cost (the exact terms are slipping away from me this morning) ingredients and sometimes seasonal changes make a difference. High fats will help with the calories but be careful because if introduced too suddenly can start loose stools. Not a cycle you want to get into. Have you thought about feeding him outside where he can nibble the grass, eat a bite or two, and generally think he's a young, wild beastie.

              The other thought I have is that he may have some gas if he's ingesting any of the new grass. This would make him uncomfortable. Easy enough to tell by listening to gut sounds. Usually higher pitched and pingy.

              Hope the abcessed tooth heals quickly. They can be very nasty. Watch for sinus infection.

              Best wishes. Please let us know how he does. Jingles being sent your way.
              Susan B.


              • #8
                My old boy turned 35 on may 5th and he's a happy camper eating his Poulin Forage super bites, wetted. I had him on hay stretcher but the sugar content was messing with his system. He's also on Triple Crown Safe Starch forage. It's a tough thing when the oldsters start to slip. That tumble to poor health seems to come too quickly once it starts.
                R.I.P. my sweet boy Tristan
                36 years old, but I was hoping you'd live forever


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks everyone

                  I really appreciate the good wishes and suggestions. We're about 99% sure his lack of eating is from an abscessed tooth. As of today, he's drinking well and eating grass and some superfine hay- unfortunately he can't actually ingest enough of this kind of feed to sustain a good weight, but we're hopeful that once his mouth feels better he'll get back to eating his regular rations of senior feed and soaked hay cubes.

                  NCSue-he's not actually "grazing" on new grass. We're picking much buckets full because Blaze has decided in his old age that he would rather not be turned out for too long- if there are ANY bugs or if it's too warm, he's right at the gate waiting to come back in. He has an oversized stall and his own paddock,so we've just let him dictate his living conditions for the last few years. lol


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by horsenut_8700 View Post

                    NCSue-he's not actually "grazing" on new grass. We're picking much buckets full because Blaze has decided in his old age that he would rather not be turned out for too long- if there are ANY bugs or if it's too warm, he's right at the gate waiting to come back in. He has an oversized stall and his own paddock,so we've just let him dictate his living conditions for the last few years. lol
                    Sounds about right. I have a couple oldsters that act as if they are doing me a favor when they go out. What used to be minor irritations have mushroomed. You're smart to recognize this and your boy is so lucky to have such a great living situation. I truly hope he continues to improve. It's hard when they start on a downhill slide. I have a barnful of old ones and I know how your heart is hurting.
                    Susan B.