What is Colitis-X?
Colitis, or severe inflammation of the large bowel, is a rare disorder in horses. Often, sporadic outbreaks may happen, and when this does happen, the equine veterinary hospitals can become quite crowded. The digestive tract of the horse is very fragile, and when this delicate system is disturbed, it is very difficult for it to perform absorption and digestion of food in a normal way.
The cecum is known as the blind sac at the entrance of the large intestine. It is comprised of only one opening, so the food goes in, becomes digested, and comes out of the same opening. This may create disruption for the horse if something gets trapped inside the sac, causing everything to become backed up. This is one of the causes of colic. The microbes of the cecum effectively absorb and dissolve the fiber that your horse eats. The nutrients that this process provides are very important to the horse. In the colon, both large and small, the water is absorbed once again from the digestive tract, and the waste material is prepared to be passed from the body. Microbes also are active within the colon to ferment any waste product. The horse’s colon is very large and delicate, and is made of many turns and twists within. If the colon becomes kinked, colic can also occur.
Colitis-X is a life-threatening form of colitis that is found in horses. One reason it is very life-threatening is because it comes on very suddenly and without warning and has serious symptoms that can pose a real risk for any horse.
Colitis-X is a toxic form of colitis. Colitis occurs when the colon and cecum (the large bowel) is highly inflamed.
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Symptoms of Colitis-X in Horses
Colitis-X has moderate to severe symptoms that come on very suddenly. Symptoms of Colitis-X include:
- Sharp abdominal pain
- Severe diarrhea
- Rapid dehydration
- Low blood pressure
- Blood-filled bowel movements
- Unwillingness to exercise
- Severe malaise
- Weakened pulse
- Swollen limbs
- Ineffective blood flow to organs
There are various types of bacteria and parasites that are dangerous for your horse. If your horse comes into contact with these types of bacteria or parasites, it can lead to Colitis-X. Types of bacteria include:
- Clostridium perfringens
- Clostridium difficile
- Neorickettsia risticii
- Lawsonia intracellularis
Causes of Colitis-X in Horses
Causes of Colitis-X begin with the disturbance of the lower digestive tract. Causes may include:
- The mucosa is disrupted
- The colon does not absorb the nutrients and water
- Harmful bacteria
- Good bacteria within the horse is disrupted
- Toxicity from plants
- Toxicity from drugs
- Overuse of NSAID’s
- Impaction from sand
- Bowel diseases
Diagnosis of Colitis-X in Horses
If your horse is exhibiting any of the above symptoms please call your veterinarian immediately. Once your veterinarian gets to your horse, he will begin to assess his clinical signs as soon as possible. He will also ask questions pertaining to his symptoms and how long they have lasted. If the symptoms occurred suddenly, your veterinarian will begin treatment as soon as possible; Colitis-X’s main characteristic is the sudden onset of severe symptoms. Typically, an accurate diagnosis of Colitis-X can be made by observing the clinical signs of the horse and changes in the blood test results.
The veterinarian will immediately begin with blood work and a fecal exam and sample. This will be used to check for any bacteria, parasites, or viruses. The veterinarian will also do an ultrasound of the abdomen to take a closer look at the organs of the abdomen and intestine, which can also be very helpful. The veterinarian may also palpate the rectum, perform nasogastric intubation, or a belly tap by collecting fluid from the abdomen and testing it.
Treatment of Colitis-X in Horses
Treatment of Colitis-X will depend on the severity of the condition within your horse. A rapid diagnosis is necessary in order for any treatment to be effective. Treatment methods may include:
Your medical professional will admit your horse into a clinic and focus on rehydrating your horse. Fluid loss and electrolyte loss must be corrected as soon as possible. Intravenous therapy will be performed to correct any dehydration your horse is having.
Your veterinarian may choose to perform plasma transfusions if your horse has severe protein loss. This may be conducted by using frozen plasma, fresh frozen plasma, or whole blood.
Your medical professional may also choose to perform antibiotic therapy if he suspects your horse’s organs are becoming infiltrated with bacteria. In addition to antibiotic therapy, pain medication and anti-inflammatory medications may also be given. Probiotics may be administered as well.
Recovery of Colitis-X in Horses
In terms of prognosis for this condition, it is typically guarded to good with immediate and effective treatment; however, this does depend on the severity of your horse’s condition. Once treatment is begun, your horse should show signs of recovery within a few days. If, by chance, complications do occur, such as vein clotting or inflammation, this can decrease the chance of effective recovery. Also, there is a chance of your horse developing diarrhea in chronic form if he has experienced a great amount of damage to his intestinal wall.
Once you leave the veterinarian or animal hospital, he will give you specific instructions on how to care for your horse after his treatment. He will explain to you how often to give any medications, what side effects to look for, and what to watch for in terms of new symptoms or behaviors.
You veterinarian will want to see your horse again after a few days to be sure he is becoming well again. If your horse is showing signs of worsening conditions after this period of time, your veterinarian will take proper action on any new treatment in order to help him recover. Unfortunately, Colitis-X can be life-threatening if your horse does not respond to treatment.