Identifying And Treating Common Ailments In Horses

Horses are well-loved in Ireland with the country boasting a population of approximately 180,000 at present according to data compiled by World Horse Welfare. Despite our best efforts to keep our horses healthy and safe, they can still suffer from the occasional injury or ailment. While there are many ailments that affect horses, some of the most common include laminitis, osteoarthritis, and colic. The following guidelines will help you identify the most common symptoms with ease, allowing you to treat them accordingly and thus limiting the amount of pain and discomfort your horse has to endure.


Laminitis is a very painful and often debilitating condition that is, unfortunately, very prevalent amongst both ponies and horses. The condition manifests itself as inflammation of the extremely sensitive structures of the hoof known as the lamellae. Although laminitis can be caused by numerous things, the most frequent cause in Ireland is believed to be the extreme consumption of lush grass. Symptoms of acute laminitis include a reluctance to turn, lying down more than usual, increased pulse in the lower limbs and shifting weight from one foot to another. In order to prevent the onset of laminitis, a horse owner can create a bare paddock and only feed low sugar foliage and put on a grazing muzzle that will limit how much grass is consumed. Your vet may also require that a farrier corrects the hoof rotation and ensures that they are in the best possible condition to facilitate recovery.

Pulmonary hemorrhage

Pulmonary hemorrhage is undeniably one of the most common disorders that affect racehorses in particular.  The condition is so common, in fact, that it is believed that as many as 95% of all racehorses bleed at some point during their careers. Pulmonary hemorrhage has a number of symptoms which includes blood flowing from either or both nostrils after exercise, blood noted in the feeding bin or on the floor in the horse’s stall and blood-stained mucus oozing from the horse’s nose. Treatment for the condition can include trusted remedies including the very popular lasix, yunnan baiyao capsules or powder, and cinnamomum chord liquid. Consult with your veterinarian as to which course of treatment will suit your horse best.


Osteoarthritis is also commonly known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) and is very commonplace in horses. The slow-developing disease is believed to be responsible for as many as 60% of all equine lameness cases, making it imperative to identify the symptoms and commence treatment as soon as possible. Some of the earliest signs of DJD include swelling of the affected joints which makes them appear larger, an unnatural warm feeling in the area directly surrounding the joints and apparent lameness in the horse. While there is no outright cure for DJD you can manage the symptoms and reduce the pain it causes. Your equine vet will be able to prescribe some oral anti-inflammatories as well as a joint supplement and topical ointment to reduce pain and swelling. A light exercise program that can reduce stiffness can also go a long way in making your horse as mobile and comfortable as possible.


Colic is a very common digestive disorder amongst horses and luckily one that can be treated relatively easily if diagnosed timeously. It is important to become familiar with the symptoms of colic so that quick action can be taken to relieve the horse of his discomfort. Although there are different types of colic, each with their own unique symptoms, the most common and universal symptoms include unexplained sweating or laborious breathing, restlessness which includes pawing at the ground, increased heart rate and an elevated temperature.  If you suspect that your horse is suffering from colic seek assistance from your vet who can administer an analgesic such as flunixin meglumine as well as a nasogastric tube if needed to relieve the gas pressure in the gut.

By educating ourselves with regards to common injuries and ailments in horses we will be able to identify the symptoms pertaining to an illness early on, giving them the best chance at a fast recovery. Our horses serve us unselfishly and the least we can do is to ensure they are healthy, happy and safe for as long as possible.

Contributed by Jenny Holt.


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