A lot of people underestimate the seriousness of diarrhea in horses. It can happen to all horses whether foals or seniors and in all but the mildest cases, it is best to call a vet in order to start treatment promptly, as to eliminate it from getting worse.
Diarrhea is not a disease but a symptom of one. You can simple identify whether your hose has it by checking their feces consistency from runny to liquid feces. If they were turned out, or someone mucked the stall out, you can also check your horses tail and bum as well as their hind legs to check for any diarrhea stains.
There are certain instances in which a bit of diarrhea is normal, such as a sudden change of environment or feed, however, long bouts — those that persist more than a few days — or severe forms of diarrhea is not normal and require veterinary assistance.
According to Josie Traub-Dargatz, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor of equine medicine at Colorado State University, By some estimates, a horse with diarrhea can lose as much as 10 gallons (40 liters) of water and salts per day. The resulting dehydration can be fatal, or it can lead to other serious problems, including electrolyte imbalances, weight loss, laminitis, and kidney failure. With certain causes of diarrhea, the causal agent may release or secrete toxins into the intestine, which may be absorbed into the blood, causing toxemia.” (Toxemia is blood poisoning caused by toxins–poisons produced by organisms such as bacteria.)
Now I am writing this as a precaution as Tofino has been hospitalized as of yesterday due to runny diarrhea which i do not have a picture of as i was too stressed trying to call the equine hospital. There are two situations that can happen when a horse has diarrhea:
- Loose stool but doesn’t lose much water and is still active and has a good appetite. (this can happen from minor stress or feed change and should go back to normal in less than 48 hours)
- Very loose to runny stool and the horse experiences whole-body fluid loss, high temperature, lethargic mood, sounds in the gut, blood or mucus in feces, persistent more than 48 hrs, loss of appetite, increased pulse/heartrate, signs of laminitis . (this is when you should be worried and call a vet asap!)
- Excessive ingestion of sand
- Chronic Salmonella infection
- Inflammatory or infiltrative bowel disease
- Neoplasia (lymphosarcoma in the gut)
- Salmonella infection
- Clostridial infection
- Potomac Horse Fever
- Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
- NSAID (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) toxicity
- Assorted toxicities (i.e. arsenic, cantharidin, various plant toxicities)
Now for Tofino, he had on and off diarrhea for about two weeks i think then all of a sudden it got much worse and he spilled about 4 times in one hour and he looked very depressed! I called Sharjah Equine Hospital straight away and told them about his situation and they told me to bring him in ASAP. The trailers at the yard were booked and I don’t own a trailer which made me stress even more.
Luckily, Sharjah Equine Hospital said they have a horse ambulance than can come pick us up and so they did in no time which i was very pleased with.
These are the steps that we went through at Sharjah Equine Hospital:
- Checked his heart rate + respiration (which were high!)
- Checked temperature (was high!)
- Took blood test
- Took fecal sample for testing
- Ultrasound the intestine/gut (to check movements + inflammation)
- Pain relief injection
- Probiotics (to assist stomach function)
- Stabled in quarantine (just incase)
- Fluid therapy (due to dehydration)
- All day access to ONLY hay and water (low starch, no cereals/grains/pellets)
- Additional medication daily (pro-bio + biosponge)
- Hand walked 4x/day
I am super happy that our wonderful Vet, Dr Mieke De Rijck who is also the Hospital Director, took super good care of my boy and talked me through everything in detail. He is staying at the hospital for 3 days until his temperature and heart rate lowers and passes normal feces. All the nurses and assistance are super friendly and great with the horses.
Knowing the horses vital signs range: Adult Horse (resting values):
- Temperature: 37.2-38.3°C (99-101°F)
- Pulse: 28-42 beats per minute
- Respiration (breathing rate): 8-16 breaths per minute
- Mucous membranes (gums): Moist, healthy pink color
Here is a video on how to take your own horse’s vital signs:
Note: Many vets DO NOT recommend using a mercury thermometer as it can break and is very toxic.
The fecal sample results take time and we should get them by next week to know the cause of his diarrhea. In the meantime though, i did go visit him this morning and he seemed to be more aware and less in the corner depressed which is good as any sign of progress means we are going in the right direction.
On a final note, my Dr Meike and I discussed Tofino’s diet and since he is turning 15, he should be on feed that is dedicated to Adult horses, and that is low in starch.
The problem of having your horse in a riding yard is that all the horses get the same feed, when technically, every single horse must have its own diet sorted out for them depending on their age, workload, discipline, weight etc.
Therefore, I have decided to purchase my own feed from Cavalos UAE who supply Reverdy Feed and good quality hay, after reading this complimentary Reverdy book and better understanding what Tofino really needs.
One should never cut costs where your horses wellbeing and health lays.