IM­MUNE FUNC­TION

EQUUS - - Immune Function -

Age-re­lated changes in the equine im­mune sys­tem haven’t been ex­ten­sively stud­ied, but it is known that the func­tion of T-cells---a type of white blood cell in­te­gral to fight­ing pathogens---is re­duced in older horses. As a re­sult, an el­derly horse can­not re­spond to in­fec­tions as quickly as he might have when he was younger, which makes him more sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­ease and slower to re­cover when he does be­come ill. Com­pro­mised im­mune func­tion also means that an old horse may not get full pro­tec­tion from vac­ci­na­tion and may be at a higher risk for sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­nal par­a­site in­fes­ta­tions. What you can do: Keep your ag­ing horse on a con­sis­tent and ap­pro­pri­ate vac­ci­na­tion sched­ule. His spe­cific im­mu­niza­tion needs de­pend on his life­style and lo­ca­tion, so work with your ve­teri­nar­ian to de­velop a cus­tomized plan. Par­a­site con­trol is also im­por­tant. Reg­u­lar fe­cal egg count tests will be needed to de­ter­mine how of­ten your horse needs to be de­wormed and with which an­thelmintic agents.

Biose­cu­rity mea­sures will also help pro­tect an older horse from dis­ease. Quar­an­tine new ar­rivals to your prop­erty un­til you are cer­tain of their health sta­tus, and do not share buck­ets or other equip­ment among horses---es­pe­cially when you travel with an older horse. When to worry: If an older horse de­vel­ops a fever, runny nose or other signs of ill­ness, call your ve­teri­nar­ian right away. Even mi­nor ail­ments can hit an old-timer harder than his younger pas­ture-mates and you’ll want to in­ter­vene as soon as pos­si­ble to en­sure a quick re­cov­ery.

An older horse can’t re­spond to in­fec­tions as quickly as he might have when he was young, which makes him more sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­ease and slower to re­cover when he does be­come ill.

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