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UK study: 94 percent of geriatric horse deaths are euthanasias

Researchers drill past the "old age" reason for euthanasia to uncover the truth about geriatric horses.
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Oct 14, 2011
By dvm360.com staff

Many horse owners say their horses' "old age" is the reason they want their geriatric horses (15 years or older) euthanized. But equine researchers at the University of Liverpool sought deeper answers regarding specific numbers for equine euthanasia.

It's no surprise that the researchers found that geriatric horses are euthanized in larger numbers than younger horses, but they emphasized that horse owners considered veterinary advice in these cases important in their decision to euthanize.

In the survey involving 908 veterinarian-registered heroes in the United Kingdom, researchers found the majority of geriatric-horse mortalities (94 percent) were euthanized. The most common conditions given were lameness (24 percent of mortalities) and colic (21 percent).

Horses that were considered underweight also had a greater risk of mortality. An increasing number of owner-reported clinical signs and perceived pain limiting daily activities also led to a higher risk of euthanasia.

Older horses fared the worst; the mortality rate of horses more than 30 years old was five times greater than the rate for horses 15 to 19 years old.

The survey was published in the September 2011 journal of Preventative Veterinary Medicine.