When di­ges­tion goes wrong

Your Horse (UK) - - YOUR HORSES -


Nar­row tubes are al­ways prone to get­ting blocked, and when a block­age of the oe­soph­a­gus oc­curs, this is de­scribed as choke. It dif­fers to choke in hu­mans, which gen­er­ally refers to a block­age of the tra­chea or wind­pipe. In horses, most episodes of choke will clear on their own, but in some in­stances, vet­eri­nary

in­ter­ven­tion may be re­quired.

Loose stools

The most com­mon cause of di­ar­rhoea is a change in diet that af­fects the wa­ter con­tent in fae­ces, or dis­rupts/ changes the mi­cro­bial pop­u­la­tion within the gas­troin­testi­nal sys­tem. Other causes may be a par­a­sitic, bac­te­rial or vi­ral in­fec­tion, a re­sponse to drug use, tu­mours or mal­func­tion of other in­ter­nal or­gans.


The risk of ul­cers form­ing is in­creased by long pe­ri­ods of time spent with an empty stom­ach. A food ‘mat’ within the stom­ach helps pre­vent acid splash­ing and dam­ag­ing the up­per, un­pro­tected squa­mous stom­ach lin­ing. Di­ag­no­sis is usu­ally by gas­troscopy — feed­ing a long flex­i­ble en­do­scope (cam­era) down the horse’s oe­soph­a­gus and into the stom­ach so the lin­ing can be ex­am­ined.


Colic is ab­dom­i­nal pain and may orig­i­nate from any of the ab­dom­i­nal or­gans. How­ever, the com­plex anatomy of the gas­troin­testi­nal tract means it’s in­volved in the vast ma­jor­ity of cases. Colic is broadly cat­e­gorised into the fol­low­ing:

Idio­pathic/spas­modic colic This is the most com­mon type and oc­curs when the in­tes­tine con­tracts ab­nor­mally, cre­at­ing painful spasms. Idio­pathic is a vet­eri­nary term for ‘un­known ori­gin’ as, de­spite in­ves­ti­ga­tion, there are still episodes of colic where the cause is never de­ter­mined. Thank­fully, the ma­jor­ity of these re­spond to sim­ple med­i­cal treat­ment.

Im­pactions This is when a part of the gas­troin­testi­nal sys­tem is blocked by food ma­te­rial. It’s fairly com­mon and may re­solve with ad­min­is­tra­tion of flu­ids via a stom­ach tube. Oc­ca­sion­ally, larger and more se­vere im­pactions will need surgery. Changes in the way a horse is man­aged is of­ten the cause of im­paction colic.

Dis­place­ments, stran­gu­la­tions and tor­sions Dis­place­ments hap­pen when one sec­tion of the small or large in­tes­tine moves to an ab­nor­mal lo­ca­tion within the ab­domen. Stran­gu­lat­ing colic de­scribes an episode where the blood sup­ply to a piece of gas­troin­testi­nal tract gets cut off. Tor­sions oc­cur where the bowel twists on it­self, cut­ting off the blood sup­ply. Some dis­place­ments can be treated med­i­cally but se­vere ones, and all stran­gu­la­tions and tor­sions, re­quire sur­gi­cal cor­rec­tion.

H S I R G N A L B O B : O T O H P

H S I R G N A L B O B : O T O H P

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