How to Stop Diarrhea in a Horse

Written by cate burnette
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Diarrhoea in horses, seen when the horse's stool becomes watery and loses its normal ball-like shape, could indicate an underlying disease process in the animal's intestinal tract. Because the diarrhoea can have many potential underlying, a veterinarian may need to perform a complete examination and form a diagnosis before recommending treatment that will cure the problem. If the diarrhoea has resulted from such stressors as long travel or performance anxiety, take steps to stop the diarrhoea without veterinary treatment. When the diarrhoea persists more than a few days, occurs as a result of parasites, shows up in a newborn foal or involves intestinal pain, call a veterinarian and begin treatment immediately.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Supplemental electrolytes or sports nutrition drinks
  • Roughage for feed
  • Petroleum oil or zinc oxide
  • Veterinary medications

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Instructions

    Stress-Induced Diarrhea

  1. 1

    Provide your horse with plenty of water, allowing him to drink at will; supplement his water with a sports nutrition drink for the needed electrolytes.

  2. 2

    Offer the horse more roughage for feed. Grass hay, bran mash and oats will help his digestive system absorb water. Take away his sweet or pelleted feed while the diarrhoea lasts.

  3. 3

    Remove your horse from whatever situations seem to cause him stress, allowing him to relax and bring his body back into stasis.

    Parasitic Diarrhea

  1. 1

    Administer a deworming drug to your horse per your veterinarian's instructions. If necessary, perform this procedure several days in a row.

  2. 2

    Give your horse plenty of water with electrolytes and roughage for feed.

  3. 3

    Seek veterinary treatment if the diarrhoea continues after the final dose of dewormer.

    Foal Heat Diarrhea

  1. 1

    Contact your veterinarian for treatment if your newborn develops diarrhoea eight to 10 days after birth.

  2. 2

    Allow your vet to administer intestinal protectants, deworming agents and intravenous fluids if necessary.

  3. 3

    Clean your foal's rear end daily, removing any fecal matter and washing the tail.

  4. 4

    Apply petroleum oil or zinc oxide under his tail, between and down his legs to prevent scouring (a condition involving skin chapping and hair loss that can lead to infection).

    Colitis

  1. 1

    Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your horse has colitis, an inflammation of the colon. Symptoms may include ongoing diarrhoea, rapid weight loss, unwillingness to eat, increased thirst, poor coat, dull eye and abdominal pain.

  2. 2

    Allow your vet to perform blood tests to determine whether an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria caused the colitis; she may also ask to conduct a full rectal examination of your horse to determine whether parasites or an accumulation of sand in the colon have caused the inflammation.

  3. 3

    Give your veterinarian permission to treat your horse with intravenous fluid therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and, depending on the diagnosis, plasma, antibiotics and/or dewormers.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep horses with persistent diarrhoea on roughage; calorie-dense feeds such as corn, barley and alfalfa may exacerbate diarrhoea and lead to colitis.
  • Don't allow your horse unsupervised access to fresh spring grass until his digestive system can adjust to it; gradually introduce new feed over a week to 10 days to prevent upset.
  • Deworm your horse on a regular basis using your veterinarian's recommendations.
  • Provide your horse with another supply of drinking water if he doesn't like the taste of the electrolyte-enhanced water.
  • Diarrhoea and colitis can become life-threatening conditions---especially in a young, immune-compromised foal. Long bouts of diarrhoea can cause dehydration leading to heart disease, kidney failure and colic. If the lining of the intestinal tract becomes damaged, toxins produced by normal bacterial flora can enter the bloodstream, causing the horse to become toxemic, go into shock and possibly die.

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