Preventive health care and owner-reported disease prevalence of horses and ponies in Great Britain

Survey of owners on preventive equine vet care and health problems

Source: J.L. Ireland, C.E. Wylie, S.N. Collins, K.L.P. Verheyen, J.R. Newton
Research in Veterinary Science vol 95 no 2, October 2013, pp 418-424

Horse and pony owners who invest in vet checks can help to prevent health problems from becoming serious. A postal questionnaire was sent to vet-registered owners of horses and ponies from different parts of England, Wales and Scotland, with 797 of the owners, or about a fifth, answering the questionnaire. The aim was to assess the use of preventive health care and to discover how prevalent owner-reported disorders are, noting geographical variations. Most of the horses, or 95.6% had regular hoof care, usually from a farrier. Most were vaccinated against infections, with 71.3% were vaccinated against both flu and tetanus. The average (median) time since they were last wormed was 8.7 weeks. Owners reported stereotypical behaviour such as crib-biting, weaving,and box walking) in around 11% of the horses or ponies. Thirty-one percent of the owners reported their horse or pony as overweight or obese. New health problems in the previous week affected 7.4 of the horses or ponies, with 59.3% of the illnesses diagnosed by a vet. Long-term problems affected 32% of the animals, especially osteoarthritis, affecting almost 14%. In general, the most common problems were obesity, musculoskeletal disorders, and skin conditions. It was worrying that less than a third of owners knew how much their horse or pony weighed, given that correct medicine dosages can depend on the weight of the patient, and owners could feed their animals too much, leading to health problems.