Aged Horse Health, Management and Welfare

Thomas Mcgowan (2008). Aged Horse Health, Management and Welfare PhD Thesis, School of Animal Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Thomas Mcgowan
Thesis Title Aged Horse Health, Management and Welfare
School, Centre or Institute School of Animal Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2008-10
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr. Mark Hohenhaus
Prof. Clive Phillips
Dr. Nigel Perkins
Prof. David Hodgson
Total pages 336
Total colour pages 61
Total black and white pages 275
Subjects 300000 Agricultural, Veterinary and Environmental Sciences
Abstract/Summary Abstract Background: Aged horses make up an important portion of the equine industry in Australia but have not been the subjects of detailed research. Issues relating to aged horse health, management and welfare are still largely unknown. Horses live up to 40 years, but many are retired before reaching twenty years of age thus making a large discrepancy between productive verses unproductive life. Based principally on reviews of veterinary hospital records, there has been a reported increased occurrence and severity of a range of diseases in aged horses. The increased prevalence of disease, potential for reduced perceived value and lack of regular riding may contribute to reduction in the type and quality of management practices utilised in this population resulting in compromised welfare of aged horses. Aims: By way of an owner-based survey, the first aim was to examine the demographics of aged horses, their management, the prevalence of clinical signs of disease and owner reported health or welfare issues. Using a detailed veterinary clinical examination and appropriate laboratory tests, the second aim was to investigate the prevalence and risk factors of more common health disorders, prevention or management of these disorders and how diseases or other factors affect survival. Further, this study aimed to determine owners’ opinions relating to euthanasia of aged horses and to correlate these opinions with the personalities of the owners themselves. Methods: Owners of horses aged 15 years and older were contacted via equestrian organisations in Queensland, Australia and asked to complete a questionnaire on key information about the horse (e.g. age, breed, sex, and colour), use, management strategies, use of equine health care providers, clinical signs that the horse may be demonstrating, known diseases that the horse may have experienced or be experiencing, and identify any health or welfare issues they believed were important for horses aged 15 years or greater. From this population, a subsample was selected with these horses subjected to a thorough clinical examination, dental and ocular examination and blood tests for routine haematology, serum biochemistry, ACTH, α-MSH and insulin concentrations. Owners of the subsample of horses were asked to complete a questionnaire on their opinions of euthanasia of aged horses as well as complete a self assessment personality test. One to four years after the original survey, owners were contacted to gather additional information about the horses’ survival/death and if death had occurred the events and causes related to it. Analysis: Data was managed in Microsoft Access and Excel. Descriptive, univariate and multivariate analyses were performed using SPSS, Minitab and Stata. Univariable and multivariable regression modelling and survival analysis were performed where appropriate. Results: Horses aged 15 years or greater in Queensland represented ⅓rd of the total horses owned in the population. The median age of the horses was 20.7 years (IQ range 17-23, min 15, max 44). Owners were able to identify many clinical signs exhibited by their horses, with 83% of horses having at least one reported clinical sign of disease. But, many signs had apparently been overlooked, with only 35.2% of horses reported by the owners to have a known disease or disorder. Further, there was a large disparity between the prevalence of disease by owner reports compared to veterinary examination. For example, owner reported dental disease was 0.5% while moderate to severe dental disease occurred in 46% horses examined. Univariable and multivariable analysis identified many associations between disease and horse factors, management factors and clinical signs, with many diseases significantly related to increasing age. There was considerable variation in the level of owner reported professional and other health care strategies. In the preceding 12 months, 90% had received hoof care, 67% had received dental care, and 50% were vaccinated, while only 39% had received veterinary care. Despite this owners expressed concern about the health and welfare of their horses. The majority of owners, 91.6% (491/536), responded with at least one reply to a question about which they thought were the most important health issues in aged horses. Owners were most concerned about weight loss (maintaining the horse’s condition), arthritis/lameness and teeth and dental care. The major influences on the decision to euthanase involved animal welfare and quality of life and owners were cognizant and concerned about these factors relative to their horses. Of the 766 horses that were followed for survival, 13.2% had died. The median survival time was 777days. Age, breed of horse, region of residence, diagnosis of equine Cushing’s syndrome, being owned by Riding for the Disabled and reported history of difficulty eating were all significantly associated with decreased survival. Conclusions: This is the first major population study of aged horses in Australia. The aged horse population is a large sub population of the Australian horse population. This study has highlighted many aged related diseases and their specific risk factors. Owners demonstrated concern for the health and welfare of aged horses, but a lack of appropriate identification of many diseases by owners and limited veterinary care suggest a need for increased client communication and veterinarian-client interaction.
Keyword Equine
equine management
equine epidemiology
equine health
equine welfare
Additional Notes colour pages --- 58, 100, 102, 103, 107 - 113, 117, 131, 134 - 138, 144, 158 - 163, 167, 170, 193 - 195, 220, 222, 225 - 227, 237, 240, 243, 245, 249, 251, 307 - 315, 317 - 331 Landscape pages --- 303 - 306

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Created: Mon, 31 Aug 2009, 06:33:34 EST by Dr Thomas Mcgowan on behalf of Library - Information Access Service