Obesity is a hot topic in the horse world, with international studies showing as many as 30% of the equine population is overweight.
In the latest “Fresh Scoop” podcast from the Morris Animal Foundation, renowned equine veterinarian and nutrition expert Dr Patricia Harris, the Director of Science for Mars Horsecare UK Ltd, explores how to determine a horse’s body condition. She also offers advice for owners on how to help their horses lose weight as well as strategies to prevent obesity.
Harris, who is Head of the Equine Studies Group at the Waltham Petcare Science Institute and is on the board of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, says a study in the UK of more than 330 horses and ponies that were competing at a national unaffiliated championship found that 41% were overweight and 21% were obese.
“Show and dressage horses were the most likely to be overweight in that study. But even more than that in some breeds and types, it may be even higher.”
Obesity is associated with an increased risk of health issues including laminitis and colic, and carries direct negative consequences on horses’ skeletal and immune systems.
“I think part of this is it seems today that many owners have a poor ability to visually identify an overweight animal. And part of the worry is that because equine obesity’s becoming so common, in fact, for many of us, we now accept it almost as the norm,” Harris says.
“Fresh Scoop” is Morris Animal Foundation’s monthly veterinary science podcast designed to appeal to practicing veterinarians, veterinary technicians and students, as well as animal-loving science geeks. Episodes are available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music and Stitcher, as well as the Foundation’s podcast page.
Morris Animal Foundation, headquartered in Denver, is one of the largest nonprofit animal health research organizations in the world, funding more than $136 million in studies across a broad range of species.