What is diarrhoea
Diarrhoea is a common condition that we see in all animals, including horses and ponies. It is the
production of profuse/loose/watery faeces, and at a physiological level is typically a result of excessive secretions into, or inadequate absorption from, the gastro-intestinal tract (usually the large intestine). We can classify it into two basic categories; acute (sudden onset) and chronic (on-going or longer term).
As a general rule, chronic diarrhoea alone does not usually involve an elevated temperature or blood in the faeces (both of which can be very dangerous indicators), however this is not always the case! The mucus membranes usually look “normal” and the animal usually has a good appetite. One of the most common other symptoms (apart from the diarrhoea) is weight loss. It is not uncommon for a horse or pony to show signs of lethargy or looking “off” in the coat.
The cause(s) of chronic diarrhoea in the horse are varied and many. They include, but are not limited to:
• Diet or dietary changes
• Parasites such as gastro-intestinal worms
• Ingested and/or retained sand
• Infective causes (bacterial/viral/protozoal)
• Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome/Disease
• Gastric ulcers
• Antibiotic treatments
• Other underlying systemic conditions
Treatment of chronic diarrhoea usually involves a process of elimination, whereby we rule out or treat for specific potential causes, and then use symptomatic non-specific treatment for the diarrhoea. Some further testing or diagnostics may also be undertaken, and may include but are not limited to blood tests, faecal tests, endoscope, ultrasound or gastro-intestinal biopsy.
Symptomatic treatments can involve:
• Gastro-intestinal protective or binding/absorptive agents
• Anti-endotoxic treatments
• Products to help normalise gastric motility
• Dietary changes
• Fluid therapy
Sometimes treatments for chronic diarrhoea can result in rapid improvement in your horse/pony’s condition, however sometimes diagnosis and treatments may be prolonged and ongoing.
If at any time you are worried about your horse/pony’s condition, or if you have any further questions, please contact the Main Ridge Veterinary Clinic on (03) 5989 6232