Obesity and the health and welfare of the leisure horse

Stella J Chapman
Saturday, March 1, 2014

Abstract Obesity is defined as an accumulation of excess body fat and is a medical disease in which excess fat has accumulated to such an extent that it has an adverse effect on the general health of the horse. Obesity is recognised as a cause for concern with regards to the health and welfare of companion animals, with one in five horses kept for leisure purposes currently regarded as obese. While obesity is not widely regarded as a welfare issue by the general public, owners have a duty of care to prevent pain and suffering in horses, and evidence suggests that an obese horse is more at risk of developing painful conditions such as laminitis. Recognition of obesity in horses is an inherent problem, with many owners underestimating the body condition and weight of their horse; this being further complicated by the fact that with larger framed horses, or horses that are already overweight, assessing body condition is more difficult. There are a number of ways of assessing body condition, including measuring actual bodyweight, assigning a body condition score and using formulas such as the body mass index. Body condition scoring is regarded as subjective, but is the most practical means by which owners can regularly assess the body condition of their horse. As with many diseases/disorders, the cause of obesity is multifactorial; however, the most common reason for a horse to become obese is overfeeding coupled with a lack of exercise. Obesity can be addressed by client education, and the veterinary nurse can provide advice with regards to weight management programmes. However, these need to be tailored to the individual horse, and owners need to recognise that they are entering into a long-term commitment.

Obesity and the health and welfare of the leisure horse
Obesity and the health and welfare of the leisure horse

Subscribe to get full access to The Veterinary Nurse

Thank you for vising The Veterinary nurse and reading our archive of expert clinical content. If you would like to read more from the leading peer-reviewed journal for veterinary nurses, you can start your subscription today for just £26.

Subscribing will enable you to:

  • Stay up-to-date with current thinking and best practice in veterinary medicine
  • Enhance your knowledge and understanding of all key clinical topics
  • Achieve the mandatory requirement of 45 hours' documented CPD over a three-year period
Subscribe now

Already registered? - Sign in here

Download Now

Keep up to date with The Veterinary Nurse!

Sign up to The Veterinary Nurse's regular newsletters and keep up-to-date with the very latest clinical research and CPD we publish each month.