Horse Diarrhea - Is It an Emergency?

Sick horses often tend to have diarrhea.
Sick horses often tend to have diarrhea.

Any time a horse develops a case of persistent, foul-smelling, watery diarrhea, a veterinarian should be contacted. Be prepared to provide the horse's vital signs, along with information about the loose stool and the state of the horse.

A horse with diarrhea should be kept away from other animals and food should be removed. Clean, fresh water should be available any time the horse wants to drink.

Diarrhea can rapidly cause severe dehydration, which can bring on other problems. Initially, the horse may need a large volume of intravenous fluid to maintain hydration and give the veterinarian time to diagnose the cause of the diarrhea fully.

Once the horse has been stabilized with rehydrating fluids and electrolytes, the treatment of acute diarrhea is usually directed at the cause. Depending on the horse's condition, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, along with activated charcoal to coat the intestine and decrease absorption of toxins, may be prescribed.

If the horse's gut has been damaged in any way,the horse may become septic as a result of absorption of gastrointestinal bacteria through the gut wall.

Diarrhea is often a symptom of colitis, caused by bacteria such as salmonella. Potomac Horse Fever, equine viral arteritis, peritonitis, and other diseases also may be the cause of diarrhea.

Antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used over an extended period of time can produce severe diarrhea. In addition, lead and selenium toxicity, plant, and blister beetle poisoning can cause diarrhea.

In addition, bacteria in pastures, contaminated water, and unsanitary living conditions can cause diarrhea in horses.

Secondary complications such as colic, laminitis, and endotoxemia can develop as a result of diarrhea. If the horse's gut has been damaged in any way, the horse may become septic as a result of absorption of gastrointestinal bacteria through the gut wall.

Consider this

With most causes of diarrhea, it is important to involve a veterinarian at the earliest stages to diagnose the horse's condition and begin treatment before complications develop that can compromise the health of the horse.

Dig deeperTM

You may also care to review the following articles for a better understanding of conditions that create diarrhea in the horse:

About the Author

Flossie Sellers

Author picture

As an animal lover since childhood, Flossie was delighted when Mark, the CEO and developer of EquiMed asked her to join his team of contributors.

She enrolled in My Horse University at Michigan State and completed a number of courses in everything related to horse health, nutrition, diseases and conditions, medications, hoof and dental care, barn safety, and first aid.

Staying up-to-date on the latest developments in horse care and equine health is now a habit, and she enjoys sharing a wealth of information with horse owners everywhere.