Merck Manual

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Professional Version

Overview of Preventative Health Care and Husbandry of Horses


Allison J. Stewart

, BVSc (Hons), PhD, DACVIM-LAIM, DACVECC, School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland

Reviewed/Revised Oct 2022 | Modified Nov 2022

Proper management can decrease 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 benefits, such as:

  • Dietary changes can decrease the incidence of certain types of colic, laminitis from insulin dysregulation (equine metabolic syndrome), and exercise-induced myopathies.

  • Good dental care can reduce wasted feed and improve body condition.

  • Minimizing exposure to barn dusts and molds can decrease the risk of equine asthma.

  • Individually designed deworming and vaccination programs can decrease morbidity and mortality due to parasitism, infectious disease, and colic.

Owners should be aware of the normal vital signs and proper movement of a healthy horse to better recognize when a health problem develops. Knowledgeable owners working with a veterinarian and a farrier can provide a good quality of life for every horse.

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