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Laying Down

June 22, 2009

Should you be worried when your older horse lays down a lot?

Question:

I have a 22-year-old gelding that is always the picture of health. Lately, he’s been laying down a lot and there does not appear to be any lameness or signs of colic when he gets up. Could this be age related? He has been eating, defecating and urinating well with lots of gut sounds.

Answer:

This sounds like an age related event to me. Oftentimes, older horses will have arthritic joints. While they may get around just fine, they spend more time than they did as a youngster lying down. From the information offered in this question, it certainly doesn’t sound like colic and obviously the horse is well taken care of by loving owners.

Another reason that I see horses lying down more often than normal is laminitis.

In this case, it doesn’t sound like this horse would be at risk for laminitis, but for other horse owners reading this column, keep laminitis in mind when you have a horse that becomes acutely stiff, doesn’t want to move, rocks back on his hind legs in an effort to relieve pain on his front feet or lays down a lot when he normally doesn’t. This is always a reason for a veterinarian to examine your horse as soon as possible.

Dr. Jennifer Schleining, Ames, Iowa, member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners