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mottaguedes 06-19-2013 04:03 AM

30 year old horse not eating
Hello All,

I need some help/advice/ideas please!

My 30 year old horse (bought him when he was 4) has stopped eating and is losing too much weight.

Three months ago we had to move him to a different club. Might be important to note that he is familiar with this new club and the people, as he has been there several years in a row a while back.
We moved him because the "old" club was not working and he started losing some weight.
Because of that initial weight loss the vet precribed some supplements (powder form) that had a hideous smell and he wouldn't touch his grains. So we quit those and he started putting on some wheight. We would take him out grazing and he would eat his grains.

About 3 weeks ago there was a change in grain at the club and he stopped eating again. Because he was still thin and losing weight again the vet told us to give him liquid vitamins with a syringe.

The current situation is:

Very irregular feeding (grain)
He grazes (but less and less the last days)
He eats carrots and hay (although not with the same apetite as always)

As I said, his feeding is very irregular, and he hasn't eaten all his 3 meals per day for the last 2/3 weeks.

The vet checked his teeth, all seems fine.
He suggested some mouthwash just in case he had any blister and we gave him TANTUM which is something we've used several times in the past with success and he even seemed to like the taste of it.

No luck, he keeps losing weight and not eating.

Regarding the liquid vitamins, I also think he doesn't like them, it makes him nauseous or something, and he eats even less...
I observed this last Saturday and Sunday:

Saturday - gave him the vitamins after grazing and before his carrots. He wouldn't eat the carrots from my hand afterwards and took him quite a while to start eating them from his bowl (he usually dives right in).

Sunday - decided to give him the vitamins before grazing. He did not graze at all and we were out for an hour. He ate the carrots back in his stall though.

He still looks interested in his hay.

Odd thing: lately his been eating a lot of dirt, pinetree bark, and even pine cones! This is something really strange, because it's not a little bit once in a while. It's leaving the grass for the dirt.
The bark and pine cones is kind of new for me. He might have taken a bite or two of tree bark once in a while before, but I believe I had never seen him go for the pine cones.
He's a horse without bad habbits - he doesn't chew on his stall door, or food bowl, or whatever.
When I noticed him eating so much dirt I brought one of those salt blocks for him to lick, but he doesn't seem to pay much attention to it.

I've read people had success in similar cases using molasses with the grains, so I will try it today.

Any ideas or sugestions are most welcome please!

Many thanks!!!

ICUWest7 06-19-2013 03:24 PM

Have you tried soaking his feed? At our barn we feed the oldddd horses soaked alfalfa cubes, beet pulp, and soak their senior feed, kind of mix it all together into a mash and they dig right in. It's not because of teeth problems, it's just easier for them to eat that way.
I know adding gatorade to some horses water makes them drink, but i don't know about feed really...
Vegetable oil helps put on weight though! Start with 1/4 cup per feeding and work up to 2 cups or so, so when he does eat he'll at least be putting on some weight.
Wish you the best of luck! I hope he starts eating normally soon.

Speed Racer 06-19-2013 03:34 PM

You know, the horse is 30 years old. He may just be worn out and ready to go.

I hope your vet has discussed end of life scenarios with you, instead of just trying to keep the old boy alive.

mottaguedes 06-19-2013 04:04 PM

Hello and thanks for your replies.

@ICUWest7, one of the things we've been trying to feed him is bran, wet of course. Some times he eats it, sometimes he doesn't.
Today I managed to make him eat maybe a Kg of bran, but curiously enough, he seemed to like it better without water. I had him by the water through holding a bowl for him to eat and when I was adding a bit more bran he dug right in before I had time to add the water.

What I did today was go outside and get some fresh grass for him. I brought a nice "grass bale" and he ate like nothing ever happened. So I went out again and got a huge "bale" and left it in his stall. He kept eating for a long while until he just stopped. This time I believe he was just full and making a pause.

I'll check tomorrow morning if he ate all the grass overnight. If yes, I'll keep getting it for him.

@Speed Racer, no need. I won't be selfish about it, keeping him alive just for my sake. When the time comes I'll be ready to let go.

Speed Racer 06-19-2013 04:10 PM

Good to know, motta. Too many people think only of themselves when it's time to consider letting one go.

morganarab94 06-19-2013 04:32 PM

Is he getting a mineral block of any sorts? I've seen horses that don't get any minerals eat the bark off of trees. I even went through it with one of my mares because my gelding was being a mineral block hog so I had to start putting it in her feed and she stopped nibbling on the trees:lol:. Just something to think about.
Maybe it's because he doesn't like the type of grain?
I'm not really sure but I hope he starts eating soon and gains some weight. :)

gunslinger 06-19-2013 04:35 PM

Motto, my next door neighbor was in a somewhat similar situation as far as weight gain etc.

His horse Red would eat for awhile and get looking pretty good, then he wouldn't eat much for awhile, start loosing weight and then miraculously start eating and gaining weight and looking pretty good. This cycle went on for 3 or 4 years.

He eventually had to let him go at age 33 when he laid down and couldn't/wouldn't get back up.

I don't envy you, and would hate to put one down just because they're old and having a few issues. My feeling is that as long as the horse has a desire to eat and isn't in pain then I'd let them continue to enjoy life as best they can.

I sure hope he gets several more good years. Best Wishes.....

mottaguedes 06-19-2013 05:02 PM

Thanks for all your feedback. Noted the tips about the bark eating, etc.

I did put a mineral block in his bowl a couple weeks ago. He's been licking it alright. :)

He eats grass with an appetite!, so I don't think he's "letting go". I think it's a matter of not liking the grain/bran/whatever.

I'll update again tomorrow. :)

Again, thank you everyone!

jaydee 06-19-2013 05:20 PM

I know its a bit 'taboo' to question vets but is he a horse vet, did he actually look right down into the back of his mouth with a gag on him? I know our vet does most of his dental work on older horses as their teeth don't seem to behave so well as they age and sharp edges can cause damage to the sides of the tongue, they are also more prone to mouth ulcers. I do know that the few we've had in their 30's had worn away their front teeth and had difficulty grazing and eating hay so but as they were otherwise healthy and active were kept in good condition by feeding quality chop/chaff that was damped as a substitute.
I wouldn't feed too much bran - you get the ratio out of sync and will cause other problems but a small amount is OK but shouldn't be fed dry really if he's already not drinking enough. I would add soaked sugar beet to it and look into one of the complete pelleted feeds that has a balance of vitamins and minerals already in it and damp that down too - should be soft but not a sloppy mush
Sentinel senior is easy to feed like that as are the Triple Crown senior feeds - I particularly like the Triple Crown Safe forage which has added nutrients too
Rice bran is a good weight gainer but Cool Calories is higher fat for less cost and like a fine powder.
Feeding the hay damped will also make it easier to eat
Its messy but boiled barley and boiled oats (use a pressure cooker or you could maybe do it in a microwave) are great for putting condition on fussy eaters

mottaguedes 06-19-2013 05:34 PM

jaydee, thank you for those detailed advices.

Just for the record, the vet that saw him (full check up, heart monitored, etc) has been his vet since he was 5 or 6 years old and is considered one of the best horse vets in Portugal. :)

And their teeth were checked by a "horse dentist", he is also specialized in horses.
BTW, his teeth are really good for his age, he grazes just as well as he ever did, or so it seems. :)

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