How To Treat Diarrhea In Horses | Causes, Diagnosis & Management

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Diarrhea in horses is a dangerous health issue that may affect your horse caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses, or inappropriate diet. This is not actually a disease, but it is the symptoms of some diseases. The immediate effect diarrhea is dehydration and malnutrition which will lead to more severe health problems like kidney failure, laminitis, toxemia, weight loss and electrolyte imbalances.

There are two kinds of diarrhea in horses due to its severity. The first one is quite normal diarrhea which doesn’t cause any severe dehydration and doesn’t change the horse’s behavior so much. Severe diarrhea can make the horse loses water the about 40 lt per day. Adult horses have the more high risk to get severe diarrhea than fouls. You need to call a vet immediately when diarrhea stays for several days (more than two weeks) and causes massive liquid loss.


Diarrhea in Horses

diarrhea in horse
credits: The Equine Nutrition Nerd


The causes of diarrhea in horses is various which depends on the severity of the disease. It is divided into two categories which are chronic and acute type.

Acute Diarrhea

This type of equine diarrhea can be caused by infectious agents, such as:

  • Salmonella serovars
  • Neorickettsia risticii
  • C perfingers
  • Cyathostomiasis
  • Aeromonas spp
  • Clostridium difficile
  • Coronavirus
  • Potomac Horse Fever

In some cases, it  can also be caused by certain toxicants, NSAID toxics, antimicrobial-induced colitis, and sand enterocolophany. The most severe and danger type of acute diarrhea is called Colitis-X.

Chronic Diarrhea

If diarrhea lasts for more than one month, it can be the this type. The causes of this diarrhea type include:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Neoplastic condition of intestine
  • Excessive sand consumption
  • Intestinal Parasites
  • Sudden change of diet
  • Cancer
  • Disturbance of beneficial bacteria inside the bowel
  • Liver problem


Symptoms and Diagnosis

These are the general symptoms that may easily visible for your self-diagnosis:

  • Watery, bloody, and strong smell feces in high frequency
  • Changing behavior like depression, lethargy and exhausted.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loud noise in bowel area
  • Bright red gum
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • High heart rate
  • Colic signs
  • Edema
  • Weight loss (chronic)
  • Messy appearance, or even hair loss

For better diagnosis, always talk to a veteran. The diagnosis will involve finding the specific cause by accurate physical examination, taking the blood and fecal sample. Another advanced diagnosis system like abdominal radiography, measuring the absorbent of nutrition (d-xylose absorption exam) fluid analysis and even surgery.



Now, how to treat diarrhea in horses? There are two self-treatments that you can do to handle it. First, by adding certain products to his diet include antidiarrheal medicine like Pepto Bismol or Kaopectate, psyllium (for sand enterocolopathy-caused), dewormer, probiotics, prebiotics, and yeast. The second one is by changing your horse’s dietary. If your horse regularly eats coastal hay, you can change it to another kind of hay. Talk to a vet, before applying these treatments.

A vet will determine the cause first, then give the proper treatment. The acute one will be treated by electrolyte therapy to rehydrate the horse from losing massive fluids. The chronic one is quite hard to cure totally, so the vet may only be able to manage the disease. Diarrhea in horses that has been so severe will cure itself. Avoiding stressful environment and changing your horse’s diet appropriately can make his condition better.