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Study: Horse owners place trust in veterinarians

Shutterstock horses in stable
Respondents reported equine veterinarians as most trusted source for vaccination and deworming practices.

Horse owners are relying on their veterinarians more and more for vaccination and deworming program recommendations, according to the 2018 "American Horse Publications" (AHP) online survey sponsored by Zoetis.

According to an announcement from Zoetis, survey respondents said equine veterinarians are the number-one influence on a horse owner's product purchase decisions for both vaccines and dewormers.

The online survey collected responses from more than 9,000 horse owners across the U.S. from January through April. Geographic regions of the country were almost uniformly represented among participants.

Dr. Jill Stowe, associate professor of agricultural economics at the University of Kentucky, analyzed the data and consulted on the results.

“The percentage of respondents who said they discuss American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) vaccination recommendations with their veterinarians nearly doubled from the last AHP survey in 2015,” Stowe said. “Also, this year’s survey showed more respondents are deworming less frequently, which suggests that more horse owners and managers are adopting the approach of utilizing fecal egg count (FEC) tests and deworming according to individual FEC test results.”

Key health findings of the survey include:

Increased protection through vaccinations. Survey participants reported increasingly seeking their veterinarian’s guidance on vaccinations to protect horses from disease, the announcement said. As such, a majority of horse owners polled (63%) reported vaccinations purchased through, and administered by, their veterinarian — an increase that continues from results reported in the prior surveys conducted in 2012 and 2015 (58.2% and 61.4%, respectively).

Of owners who vaccinated their horses themselves, a majority of respondents (70%) said their veterinarian was the number-one influence for where they purchase their equine vaccines. Also, nearly 50% of those who participated in the survey reported discussing AAEP vaccination recommendations with their veterinarian. This is an increase of nearly 20 percentage points since the previous survey conducted in 2015, the announcement said.

American Horse Publications

Vaccination remains critical against the five core equine diseases: rabies, Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE), Western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE), tetanus and West Nile. Survey results demonstrated a slightly higher percentage of horse owners vaccinating for rabies.

The study found that among equine risk-based vaccinations administered once per year: 80% of horse owners who participated in the survey vaccinated for equine herpesvirus and equine influenza, 40% vaccinated against strangles and nearly 20% protected against leptospirosis.

“Equine wellness requires a dedicated team, from efficacious products to trusted guidance from your veterinarian,” said Dr. Kevin Hankins, managing veterinarian with Equine Technical Services at Zoetis. “By working closely with your veterinarian, you can rest easy knowing your horse is best protected from core disease risks, which can be more than a risk; they can be a death sentence for unvaccinated horses. Only vaccination helps provide the protection a horse needs.”

More strategic deworming practices. As seen with vaccinations, the AHP survey showed that an equine veterinarian’s role in deworming protocols continues to increase as well. Half of the horse owners participating in the survey reported veterinarian involvement in developing their horse’s deworming schedule, Zoetis said. Additionally, nearly 78% of survey respondents indicated that their veterinarian recommended an FEC test, compared with less than 50% in the past two surveys. Nearly 63% of respondents reported having had an FEC test performed for at least one horse.

Parasite resistance continues to be a fear for horse owners, with 80% of respondents noting their concern, the study found. Their responses within the questionnaire suggested that they are taking steps to prevent parasite resistance in their horse. Since 2015, the percentage of respondents reporting that they deworm their horses once, twice or three times a year has increased.

“These results show an increase in responsible deworming practices,” noted Dr. Kenton Morgan, managing veterinarian with Equine Technical Services at Zoetis. “When a horse is dewormed too often, horse owners risk inadvertently doing more harm than good by increasing their horse’s risk for parasite resistance and, as a result, ineffective deworming treatments in the future.”

Additional insights

Relationship between humans and horses. The majority of participants indicated that they consider their horse a companion animal or pet (71.84%), the announcement said, noting that the data suggested a correlation between the perception of the horse/human relationship and the age of the horse owner. As the respondents’ age increased, they were less likely to view their horse as a best friend, companion animal/pet, family member or performance partner.

American Horse Publications

Unwanted horse challenge. As in the 2010, 2012 and 2015 surveys, Zoetis reported that the concern for “unwanted horses” remains the most significant challenge facing the equine industry today, according to 37.8% of survey participants. However, the percentage of respondents choosing this option was significantly less than prior surveys. A close second was the cost of horse-keeping (36.4%).

Upon analyzing this finding, Stowe said, “Industry participants have made great strides in addressing important issues, such as the unwanted horse issue, and now have their sights focused on additional challenges, such as the scarcity of riding areas and open spaces.”

American Horse Publications

The survey marked AHP's fourth online nationwide equine industry survey. Conducted every three years, the survey gauges ongoing trends and management practices across the U.S. equine industry and identifies critical issues facing the equine industry, thus providing the opportunity to better understand current approaches to horse health.

To request a summary of the 2018 AHP equine industry survey sponsored by Zoetis, contact the AHP office at [email protected] after Oct. 1, 2018.

AHP has united equine-related publishing media, businesses, professionals, colleges and students for nearly 50 years. The nonprofit professional association promotes excellence in equine publishing media and encourages relationships and communication to increase interest in the horse industry.

Zoetis is a leading animal health company that discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products, genetic tests, biodevices and a range of services.

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