horse not eating - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 11-04-2011, 02:51 PM Thread Starter
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horse not eating

I've got an elderly (30 yrs) quarter horse mare who within the last month or so has declined most feed. She eats about 5 lbs of equine senior a day but will not eat beet pulp, hay pellets (orchard grass, timothy or alfalfa) or grass hay. She has access to feed and water at all times. We've done tests for liver and kidney function and they are close to normal. We're trying steroid injections and we're treating her for possible ulcers from not eating enough. Clearly she will not survive the winter at the current rate.

Does anyone have experience with a similar problem. Any suggestions on feed to try?

Maybe she's just come to the end of her life and is shutting down.
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post #2 of 12 Old 11-04-2011, 03:14 PM
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Have you had her teeth looked at recently? If anything there hurts her she may be reluctant to eat.
At her age, too, she might need a mash instead of dry feed. (Or in addition to). Maybe you can make a mash with the senior feed and alfalfa pellets together and see if she'll eat it all?
If it's all she'll eat, the Equine Senior is meant to be a complete feed, so that alone might be sufficient. She'll need much more than 5 lbs though, at least double that and probably more, depending on weight and activity. (That's on only the senior, not Senior + hay, etc).

You also might try soaking or steaming the hay to soften it. Somewhat of a pain to do regularly but it might make it easier for her to eat it.
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post #3 of 12 Old 11-04-2011, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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I should have elaborated more. She had her teeth worked on in the spring - they're very worn - not unusual for her age. The beet pulp and hay pellets are all given as a mash - we soak for 1 -2 hours before feeding. I know senior feed can be a complete feed - the problem is she just won't eat more than a few pounds a day no matter how much is put in front of her.
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post #4 of 12 Old 11-04-2011, 05:52 PM
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That does make a difference.
Is she getting two meals a day? If so, would it make a difference if she were offered several small meals instead?
What about offering different types of grain at different feedings (if you're able to do multiple through the day).
Does she have a companion? If not maybe a goat in the pen with her will help her mood? (Yes, I'm reaching).

It might just be near the end.
Certainly worth trying though, right?
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post #5 of 12 Old 11-04-2011, 06:34 PM
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I would put her down if she were mine. I don't like to keep a horse until they are in severe discomfort before putting them down. She's 30 years old. She won't regain a good quality of life ever again. If you look at her right now you will see her at the best (or close to it) that she will ever be. It's a hard decision and I don't envy you but that's a cross that all animal lovers have to bear.

There's nothing like the Rockies in the springtime... Nothing like the freedom in the air... And there ain't nothing better than draggin calves to the fire and there's nothing like the smell of burning hair. -Brenn Hill
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post #6 of 12 Old 11-04-2011, 06:42 PM
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Because of the severity of our winters, my 28yr old, who had a good appetite, continued to lose weight. I made the decision to put him down as he had no fat and his ribs were showing. Blanketing him was not an option.
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post #7 of 12 Old 11-05-2011, 09:39 PM
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I just had my 31 year old guy put down a month ago today. He was eating a mix of Purina equine senior and Triple Crown Senior until the end. At first as a dry feed once/day for several years, then a mash once/day, then from this past spring until the end as a mash twice/day with a joint supplement and bute. The Purina did him well for a while, but then he started having trouble keeping the weight on. So, on the advice from someone here, I used TC and I'm convinced that's what kept him going, happy and healthy for as long as he did. At the end though, he would try hard to eat, but just couldn't swallow for some reason. We had to have him put down a few days later. He was always excited for food... he'd nicker as I came in to the barn and got his food ready... so when he quit eating the last couple of days I knew it was his time.
If you haven't yet, I'd give the TC a try. It certainly can't hurt. It was a wonder food for him. But if you can't find something she'll eat, and no reason why she wont eat, maybe it's just her letting you know it's her time. It's never, ever an easy thing, but it can most certainly be the kindest.
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post #8 of 12 Old 11-05-2011, 09:43 PM
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Agree with Kevin. If the vet can't find something treatable wrong with her, euthanasia is the kindest option. When a horse (or other animal or person) stops eating, it means they don't feel well.
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post #9 of 12 Old 11-06-2011, 10:05 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all your suggestions. CalienteCalcetines: she does have two long time companion horses. RusticWildFire: I'll get some TC and give it a try. I think we'll give her a week or two longer - the vet says that if the steroid injections are going to work we'll see the results in that time frame. Otherwise we'll put her down - the Colorado weather is getting cold and we certainly don't want her to suffer.
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post #10 of 12 Old 11-06-2011, 10:16 AM
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My friend has an old QH that did the same thing a few months ago. We just had to keep "playing" with food until we found something that worked. WE finally found something, maybe it will work for you. He gets the beet pulp shreds and senior. We mix it in a big bin so that it's half and half. Then we give him a couple scoops of that soaked with water. WE soak about 3 hours or so. Then when we give it to him we put a few dribbles of molasses on it, just a little. It's funny that he wouldn't really eat the beet pulp before, but now that it's mixed 1-1 with senior he just gobbles it right up. He's actually a little overweight.

What kind of exercise does your horse get? It sounds weird but sometimes a little "getting out" helps. It could be depression, or something psychological that is also affecting your horse. I'm not saying you have to ride, but if you go on trail can you pony off of another horse? This helped my friend's QH as well. He actually looks forward to getting ponied now, and seems to look forward to every day life a bit more.

Of course, as always check with your vet too.
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