Final national survey confirms horses’ most common health problems


An important national survey of horse health in Britain has counted the numbers for the last time, and again proven its worth in providing a clear sense of what continues to affect equine health year on year.

The results of the 2018 annual National Equine Health Survey (NEHS) remain consistent with previous survey results, helping equine specialists to benchmark and educate on current and predicted equine health priorities.

Pioneered in 2010 by national pet charity, Blue Cross, in partnership with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and Professor Josh Slater Professor of Equine Clinical Studies at the Royal Veterinary College, its aim was to provide a landscape on horse health and welfare in the UK and the results over the years have certainly achieved this.

As a snapshot survey at community level NEHS has looked at the prevalence of the same disease syndromes during the same week of May every year. It has relied on survey feedback from thousands of  horse owners and keepers and is the first time there has been data obtained about what really affects the UK’s horses from a community perspective.

This year 5529 people returned records for 13,873 horses. The results enable an initial breakdown into general disease syndromes and then a further breakdown into individual diseases. In each case the 2018 results for both were similar to previous years:

General disease syndromes

  1. Skin problems (33% of all syndromes recorded)
  2. Lameness including laminitis (29% of all syndromes recorded)
  3. Metabolic diseases (7.4% of all syndromes recorded)
  4. Respiratory diseases (7% of all syndromes recorded)
  5. Eye problems (6% of all syndromes recorded)

Individual disease syndromes

  1. Proximal limb (non foot) lameness (18.5% of all syndromes recorded)
  2. Laminitis (5.4% of all syndromes recorded)
  3. Mud fever (6.7% of all syndromes recorded)
  4. Sweet itch (7.3% of all syndromes recorded)
  5. PPID (Equine Cushing’s Disease) (5.3% of all syndromes recorded)

The information generated has helped pinpoint trends in endemic equine diseases. The results are regularly referenced by vets and researchers as benchmarks for general knowledge of horse health. The emerging patterns are now helping to steer equine awareness, education and research to help keep the nation’s horses healthier.

”NEHS is a gamechanger that has proved its worth and has changed the landscape for endemic equine disease surveillance,” Professor Josh Slater said.

”It has demonstrated that it’s possible to collect data at this level and the consistency has shown that the data is reliable. We now have a solid foundation that we never had before which tells us with confidence what the common problems affecting UK horses are.”

While NEHS has now finished, survey participants who have confirmed interest in pursuing further equine health initiatives will have the opportunity to take part in new projects in the future.

Supporters of NEHS include the British Horse Society, Horse Trust, Redwings, World Horse Welfare and the Pony Club. Dodson and Horrell supported the initiative by helping Blue Cross cover the costs of running the scheme.

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