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Death and associated risk factors in geriatric horses

J. L. Ireland, P. D. Clegg, C. M. McGowan, L. Platt, G. L. Pinchbeck

GERIATRIC horses (aged 15 years or more) represent a substantial proportion of the equine population in the UK. This study investigated mortality in aged horses and ponies.

The study population included geriatric horses in north-west England, the Midlands and north Wales. A random sample of clients was selected from 20 veterinary practices. Horse owners were sent a postal questionnaire to obtain baseline data, including demographic information, management practices, feeding, preventive healthcare, disease and quality of life data. Follow-up information on any changes in management or health was provided in three telephone interviews during the subsequent 18 months. An additional questionnaire was completed for any horse that died during the follow-up period. Data collected were analysed statistically.

A total of 856 horses were included in the study, from which a total of 118 mortalities were reported during the follow-up period. Overall mortality was 11.1 (95 per cent confidence interval 9.2 to 13.2) per 100 horse-years at risk. The mortality of horses aged over 30 years was over five times that of horses aged 15 to 19 years. Most deaths (94 per cent) …

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