Merck Manual

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Professional Version

Overview of Health-Management Interaction: Horses


Thomas J. Lane

, BS, DVM, University of Florida, Large Animal Clinical Sciences

Last full review/revision Nov 2014 | Content last modified Sep 2022

Proper management can reduce the incidence of many disease conditions in horses. Informed management of the environment and diet, routine foot and dental care, and adherence to an appropriate deworming and vaccination program form the basis of a preventive health program. Client education is important for compliance; owners are more likely to follow recommended changes in husbandry programs once they appreciate the advantages. Diet manipulation reduces the incidence of certain types of colic and exercise-induced myopathies, good dental care improves feed utilization, minimizing exposure to barn dusts and molds reduces the risk of recurrent airway obstruction (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and individually designed deworming and vaccination programs reduce morbidity and mortality due to parasitism and infectious disease. Owners should be aware of the normal vital signs and proper movement of a healthy horse, so that they will be better able to recognize when a health problem such as pneumonia, colic, or lameness develops. New modalities for prevention and treatment are always evolving. In addition, the use of complementary or alternative medicine such as acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic procedures, photomodulation, and massage has grown in equine care ( see Integrative (Complementary and Alternative) Veterinary Medicine Integrative (Complementary and Alternative) Veterinary Medicine ). Knowledgeable owners working with a veterinarian and a farrier can result in a productive and pleasant life for every horse.

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