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Animals 2011, 1(4), 366-376; doi:10.3390/ani1040366
Welfare of Aged Horses
Received: 5 September 2011; in revised form: 28 October 2011 / Accepted: 28 October 2011 / Published: 31 October 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers)
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Simple Summary: Horses form a unique and special part of their owners’ lives and aged horses are no exception. This review considers the health and management of aged horses. In particular how owners manage and care for their aged horses, what diseases and conditions they suffer from and what factors affect their quality of life. As an aged horse reaches the end of its life, an owner will be faced with judging its quality of life and making the decision to end its suffering. The veterinary surgeon plays an essential role in supporting the owner in this process.
Abstract: Horses form a unique and special part of their owners’ lives and aged horses are no exception. This review considers the health and management of aged horses, including the role of the owner and their perceptions of aged horses, potential threats or risks to their welfare and finally, factors affecting quality of life and euthanasia of aged horses. Owners of aged horses are concerned about the health, welfare and quality of life of their aged animals. Yet surveys of management and preventive healthcare reflect that there may be some limitations to what owners are actually achieving in practice. They show declining management as horses age, particularly for the retired horse and insufficient appropriate preventive healthcare via veterinary surgeons. The veterinary surgeon plays an essential and influential role in preventive healthcare, management of diseases and disorders and ultimately in the decision making process for euthanasia of aged horses at the end of their lives. The value of aged horses should not be underestimated by veterinarians and others working with them and the continuing care of aged horses should be regarded with the same importance as the care of younger horses with more obvious monetary value.
Keywords: geriatric; human-horse bond; health; management; welfare