My horse is losing weight like I’m losing hair…HEEEEELP!!

Okay, so your horse is losing weight quickly and you don’t know why? My suggestion would be for you to consult your local veterinarian on this and make sure there’s nothing serious going on. Horses lose weight for a variety of reasons. Maybe they have a high metabolism or their teeth need to be floated. Maybe they’re old and that’s just a part of nature, or maybe they have worms. Either way your vet needs to be consulted. We won’t discuss every reason for weight loss in horses as that would be a lot of typing, instead we’ll discuss what I consider the top 5 reasons for weight loss in horses.

Let’s first take a look at the most common reasons for weight loss that some horse owners overlook. A horse that is well under twenty years of age usually only need their teeth checked once a year. Horses twenty years and over should have their teeth checked every six months. The horse’s teeth should be checked for any sharp points and retained caps. If the points are too sharp then they won’t eat as much if at all. Teeth are one of the most common reasons for weight loss.

Stress is also another factor in sudden weight loss. Stress leads to ulcers which lead to pain which lead to a lack of appetite which leads to weight loss. If your horse is showing signs of being stressed then I would suggest you remove the irritant and do your best to relax your horse. Some horses require supplements such as Vitacalm to help reduce stress. If you can remove your horse from a stressful environment then do it.

Inadequate feed or an inadequate amount of feed can also cause weight loss in horses. If the horse cannot get to his/her feed due to other horses then they will progressively lose weight. If that is they case I would suggest you feed your horse in a separate area or move the horse to a different pasture or paddock. Horses with high metabolisms and with an extensive workout schedule require more feed than the average horse. If you’re not feeding your horse enough then this will cause your horse to drop weight. At that point I’d consult your vet to work with you on creating a feeding routine that works for you and your horse.

Some horses are unable to absorb what they eat. The most common reason for an inability to absorb feed is damage to the lining of the large and small intestines.  Damage to lining of the intestines most commonly is caused by worms. Another reason that horses are unable to digest food is the thickening of the gut wall. But again, consult your vet first.

A loss or lack of energy can also cause a horse to lose weight. A lack of energy means a lack of nutrients. A lack of nutrients means their bodies work overtime to replace them. Working overtime to replace nutrients means they have an energy deficiency.

Worms are another common reason for weight loss in horses that a lot of horse owners overlook. Just because you worm your horse every two months or every month or every three months does not mean they won’t get worms. Horses can still get worms even though they’ve been dewormed and this should be checked out when trying to investigate sudden, rapid weight loss.

And finally, age is a factor. Some horses just don’t maintain weight as well as they used to when they were younger.

SO now you have some reasons to think about when wondering why your horse is losing weight. Let’s now take a look at some ways to combat weight loss and some wives tales and tricks to helping your horse gain weight.

The most common wive’s tail is feeding your horse bread. Bread has been suggested by many a person trying to be helpful. Whether or not bread works, I don’t know for sure. Some say it does and some say it does not. Bread has a lot of sugar and can be quite unhealthy for your horses. I’d ask my vet before feeding bread to my horses.

The easiest and most common way to get weight on a horse is to feed more grain. Upping the amount of grain you feed and adding some corn oil has been known to help increase weight in horses. Giving them a high protein diet also helps with gaining weight. Make sure the hay you feed is not dusty and is of good quality too. More feed and more hay has is the most common way to put weight on your skinny mini.

CHECK FOR WORMS. I don’t care how often you deworm or when you last dewormed, check for worms check for worms check for worms!! Horses that consistently lose weight have been known to have tapeworms despite being dewormed. Call your vet and run tests for worms.

If your horse’s teeth haven’t been checked in a while then I’d suggest you get them checked. Bad teeth are a common culprit for losing weight. Even if you don’t see your horse dropping grain I’d still check their teeth.

 

I’m no veterinarian, just a horse loving girl. I took care of a Thoroughbred who was always losing weight. He had an ulcer that caused him irritation which caused him not to want to eat. We gave him MSM, Bute, Actiflex, Vitacalm and beet pulp along with four flakes of hay and full access to the pasture. All this combined helped to keep weight on him. Because he had such a high metabolism he got extra feed and alfalfa hay for extra protein. I also took care of a Quarter Horse who loses weight progressively over the summer and is skin and bones by winter. I gave him one and a half scoops of 12% sweet feed, access to a round bale and limited pasture time. It took a while but he also gained weight over time. 

The best thing anyone can do for their horse if they notice anything wrong is consult their vet and not the internet.

That’s all for now. Have a happy ride~

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Comment by Jackie Cochran on July 12, 2016 at 3:55pm

Good post!

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