What are Intestinal Clostridiosis?
Clostridia-associated enterocolitis is mainly associated with horses that have been under a great deal of stress, usually due to a recent surgery or antibiotic treatments. Horses of all breeds and ages can be affected by intestinal clostridiosis.
Diarrhea, either bloody or not, along with colic-like symptoms and refusing to drink are all clues that something is not quite right with your horse. Therefore, an immediate appointment with your equine veterinarian is essential to a quick diagnosis and aggressive treatment.
Intestinal clostridiosis is also known as clostridia-associated enterocolitis. It is a disease that causes severe diarrhea in horses and sudden stomach pain. Intestinal clostridiosis is pretty uncommon and has been associated with certain species of Clostridium bacteria.
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Symptoms of Intestinal Clostridiosis in Horses
Intestinal clostridiosis is a serious disease that requires immediate veterinary attention and treatment. The disease is usually sporadic, but other horses within the herd could also be diagnosed with clostridia-associated enterocolitis, therefore quarantining the affected horse will help minimize the spread of the disease.
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately for an appointment. Treatment needs to be given as quickly as possible.
- Diarrhea with blood or without blood
- Reduced food intake
- Dark red mucous membranes
- Laying down or leaning against a wall or fence
- Septic shock
- Standing near water but refusing to drink
- Sudden death
Causes of Intestinal Clostridiosis in Horses
Research on intestinal clostridiosis did not officially begin until the 1970s when American and Swedish workers discovered a link between clostridia-associated enterocolitis and the overgrowth of the bacteria Clostridium perfringens and C. difficile within the intestines. The cause of this overgrowth is still unknown, although some researchers have discovered a link between intestinal clostridiosis and tetracycline, an antibiotic. Stress following a surgical procedure can also trigger an overgrowth of the Clostridium perfringens and C. difficile bacteria within the intestines.
Diagnosis of Intestinal Clostridiosis in Horses
Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination and will take note of the symptoms that you have noticed. After the initial examination, a fecal examination will need to be performed. Your veterinarian will be looking for clostridia, reflux, intestinal contents or intestinal tissue. A complete blood count, or CBC, will also show the presence of the bacteria Clostridium perfringens and C. difficile.
Once a positive diagnosis of intestinal clostridiosis has been made, your veterinarian will begin an aggressive treatment plan and hopefully set your horse on the road to recovery.
Treatment of Intestinal Clostridiosis in Horses
Immediate treatment is extremely necessary when diagnosed with clostridia-associated enterocolitis, as it can be fatal when left untreated for long. Treatment plans will vary depending on the severity of the disease, the age of the horse and the medications readily available. Follow your veterinarian’s treatment plan and finish all medications prescribed. During treatments, keep your veterinarian informed on your horse’s recovery process.
Supportive care may be needed and usually includes IV fluids and antibiotics. Electrolytes will most likely be necessary to replenish the lost nutrients from severe diarrhea. In foals, milk may be withheld while your veterinarian tries to stop the diarrhea. In these cases, total or partial parenteral nutrition support will need to be provided.
Metronidazole has been proven beneficial in treating intestinal clostridiosis. It has not been proven as a safe medication for foals, but researchers are currently testing its effectiveness and long term effects on foals.
Flunixin melamine has been used to fight the overgrowth of bacteria within the intestines. It is especially effective in combating the toxemia that usually develops as a result of clostridia-associated enterocolitis.
Recovery of Intestinal Clostridiosis in Horses
Many horses do not survive a diagnosis of intestinal clostridiosis, even when given aggressive treatments. Your horse’s best chance of survival is when aggressive antibiotics and supportive care are given quickly following the infestation of the bacteria. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a better idea of the severity of the disease and your horse’s prognosis.
Should your horse recover from clostridia-associated enterocolitis, be sure to finish all medications prescribed by your veterinarian and keep any follow up appointments. Your veterinarian will complete a full physical after the full regiment of antibiotics has been completed to ensure that your horse is really on the road to recovery. Another fecal examination will also be required to ensure that the bacteria have been eradicated.