Horse Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Chronic inflammatory bowel disease treatments to help prevent equine colitis symptoms in horses.

equine inflammatory bowel disease treatments for colitis in horses

Select a Topic

  1. What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
  2. What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
  3. Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  4. Help for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  5. More Information on Inflammatory Bowel Disease

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is a condition that can occur in humans, dogs, cats and horses. IBD simply refers to a group of gastro-intestinal disorders that causes irritation and inflammation of the mucous membranes of the digestive tract, specifically the small and large intestines as well as the regional lymph nodes.

Equine inflammatory bowel disease results in a number of digestive symptoms including abdominal pain or colic, constipation, chronic diarrhea, bloating, and flatulence. Other symptoms include weight loss, recurrent episodes of colic, hypoproteinemia (abnormally low level of protein in the blood) as well generalized sin problems.

What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

As with human inflammatory bowel disease, the cause of IBD in horses is not fully understood. There do however seem to be a number of contributing factors which seem to exacerbate the condition. These include poor diet, stress, allergies (particularly food allergies), continual use of antibiotics, viral and bacterial infections, and parasites.

Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease

If your horse shows signs of signs of IBD then you should always call your local veterinarian. Chronic inflammatory bowel disease is a serious condition in horses and it can cause repeated bouts of colic which can be incredibly painful and dangerous.

Your vet will take a thorough history and will check for the presence of thickened bowel or enlarged mesenteric lymph nodes on rectal palpation. Blood tests may also be necessary to determine low serum protein concentration which is often a symptom of IBD. In some cases as intestinal or rectal biopsy may also be advised.

Help for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Treatment of colic often involves medications such as corticosteroids, metronidazole, and the antimetabolite "azathioprine". Unfortunately, many of these medications have limited success rates in IBD for horses.

In addition to medications, your vet may also suggest a change in diet and feeding routine. Frequent feeding of good-quality, high-energy feeds have been shown to help. Surgery may be an option in cases where only a small accessible portion of the intestine is affected.

Natural Remedies

IBD can be a very difficult condition to manage and as it so frequently causes colic, many horse owners are constantly worried about the next episode. Natural ingredients can be used to help to reduce symptoms and help to relieve colic when it does occur.

Homeopathic ingredients such as Chamomilla are incredibly soothing and can help to ease stomach pain and discomfort. Chamomilla is also often used to treat colic in babies and to aid in optimal digestion. Another useful ingredient is Aconitum nap which is frequently recommended to calm gastro-intestinal disturbances.

Belladonna can be used to ease stomach cramps, and spasm caused by digestive disturbance. The ingredients Colocynth and Nux vom have been used for centuries to treat colic pains and digestive complaints.

More Information on Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Tips for inflammatory bowel disease
  • The first thing to consider if your horse has IBD is the diet they are currently eating. An immune intolerance can be caused by certain foods and you may need to eliminate something from your horse’s diet. Always opt for a high quality diet that is high in roughage and low in concentrates, sugars and starches. Ask your vet to recommend the best diet for your horse.
  • Parasites are a common trigger for IBD, and so it is essential to have your horse on an appropriate parasite control. Regular fecal examinations can help to determine the efficacy of your parasite control.
  • Help your horse to de-stress as stress is a suspected trigger of IBD. Pay special attention during transportation, show time, during heavy work loads, or while your horse adjusts to a new home as these are often times of stress for your horse. Horses with anxious or shy disposition are also extremely sensitive to change and may need a few extra measures to help calm them.
  • Try to feed your horse small amounts more frequently, rather than supplying one large meal.
  • If you need to change your horse’s diet, do so gradually. The same applies if you need to change your horses feeding routine.