The Blue Cross National Equine Health Survey aims to identify patterns and trends in the main problems affecting equine health, in an effort to reduce numbers of further cases. The survey represents British horses and ponies, in partnership with BEVA, the British Equine Veterinary Association and as with previous pilots, was run online, open for completion for one week. Again, as with previous years, the format of the survey was owner-reported syndromic surveillance. This was then used to capture a snapshot of the spectrum of equine problems, noted by owners for each equine under their care on the day that they chose to complete the survey.

The NEHS 2014 report is now complete and available, following a dramatic increase in the number of participants, with more than double the number of horses included and for the first time meeting the Blue Cross target of 10,000 horses surveyed. The Blue Cross managed to reach a broad geographical coverage of equines in the UK, with data representative of age, type and use. The survey included 32 disease syndrome descriptors, covering all major body systems as well as the signs for common diseases.

Worryingly, the survey reports an increase in the number of equines suffering from laminitis, lameness and respiratory diseases, as well as an increase in over weight equines. These findings are as follows:

  • More horses were recorded as being over weight than in previous years. Three descriptors were used to capture data using owners’ perceptions of fat scoring; overweight, ideal or normal weight and underweight. New to 2014, the survey questioned how owners carried out fat or condition scoring, for example if weigh tapes or visual assessments were used. 59% of respondents monitored weight, with 85% using weigh tapes and 86% also fat scoring using the five point system.
  • The survey also showed that laminitis prevalence has almost doubled in comparison to previous years. From the years 2010 to 2013 laminitis was apparent in 4% of cases, whereas 2014 saw a 7.1% prevalence, of which 43% were new occurrences in 2014 compared to only 25% being first occurrences in 2013.
  • Lameness was once again the most common disease recorded, affecting a startling one in five equines, or 18.5% of those surveyed, with the most common reason for lameness being degenerative joint disease otherwise known as arthritis affecting 14% of horses. Foot lameness was recorded in 4.6% of cases.
  • Respiratory diseases were also frequently recorded, with an overall prevalence of 7.1%, an increase from the 5% recorded from 2010-2013. The majority of these cases were affected by Allergic Respiratory Disease.

With the results of the 2014 survey in mind and winter on the horizon, it is essential that equine stable management and feeding regimes are planned well in advance in order to help minimise the risk of our equines succumbing to these problems and disorders.

Here are some tips to help keep your equine happy, healthy and in great condition this winter:

  • Learn how to identify a good, healthy weight in your horse or pony. It is advisable to use a weigh tape at regular intervals throughout the year to keep tabs on any weight gain or loss, but if this is not possible keep an eye out for visible signs. You should be able to feel your horse’s ribs through their coat with no visible, excess fat.
  • Be aware that autumn and winter grass can still be high in sugar and calorie content, so restrict grazing in horses prone to weight gain or laminitis. Splitting large paddocks into smaller, more manageable fields is advisable. If your horse begins to gain weight, buy a grazing muzzle with slots cut into the bottom to allow your horse to continue to roam freely without access to too much grass.
  • Feed little and often and aim for a high-fibre diet. If your horse begins to gain weight and needs restricted grazing, provide an alternative good quality, low calorie forage, such as hay to avoid stress related behaviours such as weaving, crib biting and wind sucking.
  • Horslyx Original is a great solution to balancing nutritional value without the addition of extra calories, perfect for horses or ponies prone to weight gain or laminitis. Horslyx supports all-round health and vitality, containing anti-oxidants to support a healthy immune system and high oil content benefiting the skin and coat. The product is weather-proof, great for use outdoors in supplementing forage deficiencies or for promoting a natural, trickle feeding programme in the stable.
  • Provide your equine with the daily, healthy balance of vitamins and minerals that they require to maintain condition. Horslyx offers a balance of vitamins and minerals in a palatable, cost effective lick!
  • Respiratory Horslyx contains the addition of menthol, eucalyptus and aniseed for help supporting and maintaining respiratory health. The weather-proof product is ideal for horses turned out in need of good ventilation, but is equally suited to horses specifically kept for competition, in hard or fast work.
  • Mobility Horslyx contains Glucosamine and Omega Oils, offering horse owners the opportunity to balance nutritional deficiencies in order to support healthy joint function. Omega Oils are essential fatty acids that cannot be manufactured by the body, so must be supplemented in the diet, whilst Glucosamine is essential in lubricating and cushioning the joints during exercise.

To register for next year’s survey, visit  http://www.bluecross.org.uk/124956/Sign-upforNEHS2015.html

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