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Geriatric Horse Care

Lameness Evaluation

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine provides geriatric care for equine patients in our hospital and on the farm through our Equine Field Service. If you have questions about our geriatric services, please contact us at 540-231-4621 for in-hospital or on-farm treatment.

What is a geriatric horse?

Horses that need special attention, beginning at the age of 18-20 and older.

What kind of special care does my geriatric horse need?


As horses age, their teeth begin to wear down, and they may not be able to chew or digest their food properly. See Equine Dentistry for more information.


Older horses may need to be fed a senior (or complete) feed to compensate for any decline in dental health. See Equine Nutrition for more information.

Weight maintenance

If you notice your horse is losing weight, the horse should be evaluated for common causes of weight loss, which include inadequate dietary intake, dental abnormalities, and systemic illness.

Diseases that affect older horses

Cushing's disease

Signs of Cushing's disease include a failure to shed out in the spring, a pendulous appearance to the abdomen, abnormal fat deposits, and excessive drinking and urination, among others. If you notice these signs, it may be a reason to test for Cushing’s disease as it can predispose horses to laminitis. Testing involves drawing a blood sample to measure levels of ACTH. Testing is typically avoided in the fall because ACTH levels are usually higher at this time of year.

Metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance

Similar in appearance to Cushing's disease, metabolic syndrome is similar in etiology to a pre-diabetic or Type 2 diabetes condition in people. Diagnosis involves testing a resting insulin level. Treatment options include dietary management, medications, and exercise to help improve utilization of glucose intake.


As horses age, they are more likely to develop arthritis, especially if they have previously been used as a performance horse. There are many therapies for the management of arthritis: Visit Performance Horse Care/Lameness for more information.