Why is My Horse Losing Weight?

Why is my horse losing weight?

Sometimes keeping a horse at its proper weight can be challenging. While many horses are what is known as an “easy keeper” (meaning that they can keep their weight at the right level by eating a simple uncomplicated diet), for other horses, keeping their weight at the ideal level is not as easy. There may also be times where your horse loses weight and you will need to discover why. Here are a few of the more common reasons that your horse might lose weight.

Not Enough Food

A horse’s weight loss can be attributed to not getting enough food to maintain its weight. Think about your horse’s recent activity. Are you riding/working your horse more than usual yet feeding them the same amount and type of food? Or has your horse’s activity level been reduced with a subsequent reduction in feed? In addition, think about the weather conditions. For example, colder weather requires a horse to burn more energy to stay warm. To burn more energy, a horse needs more food. If the weather is now much colder, but you have not increased the amount of food that you horse eats, it could be a reason your horse is losing weight.

Wrong Food

Another reason that your horse may be losing weight is that you may be feeding the right amount of food, but you are not feeding the right type of food. Today’s domesticated horse does well when pasture grass and hay are supplemented with some type of grain, oats, or other mixture of pelleted food. How do you know what type of food your horse needs? The best way to ensure that your horse is receiving the proper nutrition is to talk with an equine nutrition specialist. Equine nutritionists can be found at colleges and universities, reputable pet stores, producers of equine feed, and online. An equine nutritionist can analyse the food that you are currently feeding your horse to determine if it is meeting your horse’s needs as well as to match the proper feed mixture for your horse.

Dental Issues

Horses rely greatly on their teeth to obtain the complete nutritional value from their meals. As such, you need to make sure that your horse receives a visit from an equine dentist at least twice a year. During a dental visit, the equine dentist will examine your horse’s teeth. Like a human visiting the dentist, the equine dentist will look for cavities, sharp edges or hooks, and for any teeth that need to be removed due to infection, for example. It is very important that the horse’s upper and lower teeth can move back-and-forth as two flat surfaces as this how the horse grinds its food so that it can swallow it. The dentist uses a rasp to file down the teeth so that they are flat. During this procedure, the horse is usually tranquillised. Without the teeth having flat surfaces to grind food properly, the horse does not get the nutrition it needs and, thus, loses weight. 

Other Conditions

In addition to not being fed the right food, not being fed enough of the right food, and dental issues, there are many other reasons that a horse can lose weight. These include disease as well as stress from being moved to a new area such as a new stable or to a horse show. Also, weight loss can be due to your horse not being on a regular worming program. 

If the above issues are ruled out as being the cause of your horse’s weight loss, have an equine veterinarian examine your horse to see what other reasons might be causing your horse to lose weight.

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January 21, 2016 by Gail Staines

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