Veterinarian Cautions Dont Let Horses Starve This Winter

Steven S. Nicholson  |  10/9/2006 11:58:29 PM

News Release Distributed 11/14/2003

Horses have to rely on their owners for food, water and shelter, so it’s important to see that those needs are met – particularly at times like this when dry weather leads to a shortage of pasture grass, says LSU AgCenter veterinarian Dr. Steven S. Nicholson.

"In most cases, horses around the state are well cared for," Nicholson said, adding, however, "Unfortunately, there are exceptions, and those cases where horses aren’t receiving appropriate care are becoming rapidly apparent across the state."

The LSU AgCenter veterinarian said an unusually dry fall this year and the corresponding rapid disappearance of pasture grass has left some horses in thin condition going into winter.

"It is disturbing to see four horses in a 2-acre pasture with no shelter, no grass and maybe a bale of poor quality hay," Nicholson said.

Horses need additional good quality feed and forage to generate body heat during cold, wet and windy weather. Animals whose ribs and backbone are clearly visible and that have no body fat are in danger of dying from hypothermia during harsh winter conditions, Nicholson said.

"Thin horses should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out chronic disease, dental problems and parasitism," the veterinarian advised. "Once these are corrected, the diet should be improved – while exercising care not to overfeed the animals until they have adjusted to the change.

"Water should be available at all times and should be checked daily."

Nicholson also cautions that bargains on feed may not really be a bargain in the long run.

"Bargain-priced feedstuffs may contain mold toxins such as the fumonisins, which cause moldy corn poisoning in horses – an acute, fatal, neurological disorder," Nicholson said. "And aflatoxins in grain may damage the liver."

Nicholson says if owners don’t notice the condition of their animals, it may be may be up to neighbors or others to point out the plight of starving horses.

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Contact: Dr. Steve Nicholson at (225) 578-2414 or snicholson@agcenter.lsu.edu

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