Many causes. What can help?
Diarrhea is one of the more common maladies affecting the horse’s GI tract. In the most basic terms, diarrhea occurs when an imbalance of mineral ions occurs and changes the balance of water inside the GI tract. This can be caused by a number of problems, including a bacterial or viral infection, electrolyte imbalance, disruption to the hindgut, malabsorption issues, or ingestion of a toxin.
Chronic diarrhea can become a serious problem due to the very real likelihood that your horse can become dehydrated. Consulting a veterinarian for diarrhea is always recommended for this reason. A vet may be able to diagnose an infection, or the ingestion of a toxin, that may require additional medication in order to resolve the underlying cause.
If your horse experiences recurrent diarrhea each time he travels, then minimizing stress by administering a natural calming agent and a preventative dosing of probiotic may assist in tempering the onset of diarrhea. If your horse seems to have “loose” manure more often than not, this could be due to a large amount of starch in the diet. Evaluate his starch and sugar intake and determine if you can replace a portion of calories with a more calorie-dense, high-quality vegetable fat supplement.
Horses should have free access to clean, fresh water at all times, and for diarrheic horses this is especially critical to assist in staving off dehydration. Dehydration can be a dangerous condition that affects multiple body functions and organ systems. Carefully monitor horses with chronic diarrhea and horses prone to frequent onset of diarrhea. Horses should also always be provided with a source of free-choice salt, and horses suffering from chronic diarrhea should be supplemented with a quality electrolyte. This can help encourage water consumption, maintain proper water balance within the body, and prevent depletion of vital minerals.
Adequate intake of balanced macrominerals known as electrolytes can help prevent dehydration during hot weather, bouts of exercise, and episodes of diarrhea. Sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride all aid in maintaining proper water balance in the tissues and cells of the animal’s whole body. Diarrhea can not only disrupt this water balance but also rapidly deplete the body of vital nutrients, because these minerals are normally evacuated in the urine and manure. When the rate of this process is expedited due to diarrhea, minerals must be replaced in order to restore proper balance and concentrations.
Yeasts, fermentation metabolites (prebiotics and probiotics), gastric buffers, gastric coating agents
These ingredients all help maintain a healthy digestive tract in horses that are under stress or suffering from digestive tract disorders. They promote a healthy digestive tract by maintaining optimal pH levels throughout the tract, supporting the healing of damaged or irritated tissues, sustaining healthy tissues, and nourishing beneficial bacteria. When a horse’s digestive tract is balanced and healthy, there is less risk of digestive upsets that lead to episodes of diarrhea.
Vitamins and minerals
Horses suffering from chronic diarrhea may be unable to consume adequate quantities of a fortified grain mix in order to meet their daily requirements. Therefore, it may be necessary to supplement their daily ration with a concentrated vitamin/mineral/protein supplement to maintain adequate nutrition.