Bloating, otherwise known as flatulent, tympanitic or wind colic, in horses is an affliction whereby the stomach and bowels become distended with gas. If left untreated, bloating can lead to difficulty breathing, sweating, staggering and ultimately death. Bloating has several possible causes, most of which are related to indigestion in one form or another.
Bloating can occur if a horse eats large quantities of green food, changes from one type of hay or grain to another or eats food that is spoiled or rotting. It can also occur if a horse goes without food for too long and/or eats when exhausted.
Contrary to popular opinion, leguminous plants, such as alfalfa and clover, do not cause bloat in horses like they do in ruminants (animals that "chew the cud") such as cattle. This is because of differences in their digestive systems.
Undesirable behaviours such as crib biting, where a horse chews wooden objects such as its manger or stable door, and windsucking, where a horse arches its neck and swallows air, can also lead to bloating.
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