Equine Enteroliths: A Difficult Diagnosis

A horse that ingests a foreign object like a pebble, baling twine or metal may not colic immediately upon eating the inedible item. Instead, his body may hold onto the object and coat it with minerals that form a flat, round or triangular stone inside the bowel. Called enteroliths, these are generally found in the large colon, where they can remain for years before potentially causing an issue.

Though it isn’t clear why some horses develop enteroliths, breed disposition, management practices and certain diets (like those high in magnesium and protein) may contribute to enterolith formation. Geography does seem to play a role, with more cases in California and Florida than elsewhere in the United States. Though these stones can occur in all breeds, Morgans, Saddlebreds, Arabians and Arabian crosses are often affected.

Enterolith formation is believed to be affected by gut pH and motility, as well as by the availability of certain minerals. Horses can form both large and small stones; the small stones may be excreted with manure, but the large stones may create an obstruction that leads to colic.

Horses with enteroliths will present differently depending on how many enteroliths there are and where they are located. A horse with a big enterolith in the large colon may have chronic colic symptoms. Horses with smaller stones that move around may show signs of acute colic when something is obstructed. Before the horse exhibits any colic signs, he may have loose manure, weight loss, be reluctant to move or have an attitude change.

Diagnosing enteroliths can be challenging as many of the signs are not specific. X-rays are often used, but they are not always able to definitively diagnose stones not located in the large colon. Early diagnosis is important so that complete obstruction doesn’t occur. The only treatment for horses that colic from enteroliths is surgery to remove the stones. Horses that have enteroliths removed should not have any alfalfa in their diets.

Enteroliths can be prevented by offering as much grazing time as possible, increasing the number of meals fed each day, exercising consistently and supplementing with psyllium.

Read more at Canadian Horse Journal.

The post Equine Enteroliths: A Difficult Diagnosis appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

DYFD Winter - 300x90

Comments are closed.