Colitis In Horses: Definition, Treatment, And Contagious

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Colitis is definitely one of the most dangerous diseases that can attack horses. This intestinal issue mostly harms adult horses with about 10 years old age, but foals about 2 years old can also be affected. It is such a very serious horse’s health issue that could be a life-threatening problem.

The horse is one of the animals that have a high risk of getting affected by colitis. Its digestive system is complicated and fragile which make it easy to be harmed by certain disease. This harmful disease is defined as the inflammation that affects the lining of the horse’s large intestine.


Causes of Colitis in Horses


colitis in horses
credit: The Telegraph


Colitis in horses is divided into two causes, infectious and non-infectious.  In some cases, it can be caused by stress too. If the horse gets stressed out from traveling, competition, medical treatment, and daily management.

The infectious one can be caused by:

  1. Bacteria, such as:
    • Salmonella
    • Clostridium difficile
    • Clostridium perfringens
    • Lawsonia intracellularis
    • Neorickettsia risticii
  2. Viruses, such as:
  3. Rotavirus (in foals)
  4. Coronavirus
  5. Parasites, such as:
  6. Small strongyles

The non-infectious causes include:

  1. Sand irritation that impacts the large bowel
  2. Dietary imbalance
  3. Cancer
  4. Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  5. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s)
  6. Inflammatory bowel problem
  7. Plant toxicities
  8. Drug toxicities

All the causes will lead to inflammation of the wall of the large bowel. Due to the several cause possibilities, it is important for the vet to diagnose the specific cause first to give the proper treatment.


Symptoms of Colitis in Horses

Knowing the symptoms of this severe disease is very important. The earlier you identify the signs and give treatment, the lesser your horse would worst health problem. Colitis can lead to more complicated disease like kidney problem, bacterial or fungal infections, and bacterial toxin in horse’s blood stream. These are some symptoms that could appear when your horse is affected:

  1. Diarrhea

    This is the most common and primary indication of colitis. The feces can be so watery, bloody with the strong foul smell.

  1. Loss of appetite

    The horse is not interested in eating anything because of the pain of his digestive system. He mostly looks at his stomach restless and mostly laying down.

  1. Physical Signs

    These signs include purple sticky mucus around nose and mouth area, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, and cold periphery.

  1. Other Signs

    A horse that experiences colic, weight loss, and anxiety.


Treatment and Contagious

The first thing you need to know that the treatment of colitis in horses depends on the causes of the disease. The vet will diagnose the causes by clinical indication, certain changes in blood work, and feces sample, abdominocentesis, intestinal and rectal biopsy, and Xylose absorption test.

There are two main treatments to handle colitis in horses that the equine hospital may apply which includes intensive care in the hospital or long-term nutritional therapy.

The contagious of colitis in horses is transformed between horses and the bacteria of infected horse can also affect human. So, it is important for a horse with colitis to get isolated to prevent the bacteria transmission.

Always avoid your horse from any stressful condition and eat random foods that may contain harmful bacteria. The most common important thing always maintains the hygiene of your horse environment.