Why Annual Wellness Exams for Horses are Important

horse exam

Annual physical examinations are a very important part of determining the overall wellness of your horse. Just as they do for other pets, these appointments enable your equine vet to closely monitor the health and condition of your horse. This increases the likelihood that any developing problems will be picked up on quickly and treated promptly, reducing the risk that your horse will experience unnecessary suffering or any long-term consequences from illness.

What can an equine annual wellness exam detect?

An equine annual wellness exam can be used to detect a wide range of different health problems that could potentially affect your animal. These include, but are not limited to:

- Obesity, which is a leading cause of other chronic health problems.

- Heart murmurs and other abnormalities.

- Equine Cushing’s Disease

- Degenerative joint disease

- Osteoarthritis

- Uveitis

- Cancerous growths

- Pregnancy

- Laminitis

What to expect from an equine annual wellness exam?

Precisely what will be included in your equine’s wellness exam can vary between veterinarians. However, most include a combination of the following important elements:

Basic assessment. This test is carried out at distance and is used to determine if your horse is quiet, shy and nervous or bright and responsive. This is important as it reveals basic personality and behavior traits that can be used for comparison for future exams.

Body conditioning score. Also referred to as a BCS, this assessment focuses on the overall condition of your horse on a scale of 1-9. To calculate this, your equine vet will look at your horse’s weight, size, muscle tone and the prominence of their hips and ribs.

Weight tape. This is what is used to calculate the approximate weight of your horse since getting them to stand on scales is impossible. The tape is passed around the girth of your horse and the result recorded.

Temperature. Any raised temperature could indicate that your horse has an underlying infection.

Heart. Your vet will check your equine’s heart rate, sounds and rhythm to ensure that there are no abnormalities. A healthy resting heart rate for most horses is between 36-44bpm.

Lungs. Your vet will also check how your animal’s lungs sound and that their breathing isn’t too fast or slow.

Coat condition. The condition of your horse’s coat can tell your equine vet about the overall health of your animal. A lackluster, dry coat and skin problems can be indicative of poor nutrition or other health issues.

Teeth. Horse’s teeth grow for the duration of their lifetime and they must grind them down regularly to prevent overgrowth. If this isn’t happening, you may need to arrange for a procedure known as ‘floating’ where a professional manually shortens their teeth for you.

Legs, feet, and gait. Leg and feet health is particularly important for horses, and your vet will check for any abnormalities. If there is any concern about your animal’s gait, this will also be evaluated.

Signs that your horse may need veterinary medical attention

Determining that any animal is unwell and needs medical attention can be challenging. Since our animals cannot have a conversation with us and tell us what is wrong, they are fully reliant on us noticing their behavior and changes in their body and movement and coming to that conclusion for ourselves. Fortunately, there are signs to look out for that tend to indicate that a horse would benefit from being seen by your equine vet. These include, but are not limited to the following:

- Coughing

- Weight loss/gain

- Excessive thirst

- Changes in the color of their coat

- Changes in the quality/texture of their coat

- Unusual behavior

If you notice any of these, contact your professional immediately and don’t wait for your horses’ next annual wellness exam.