What is Intestinal Disorders Other Than Colic?
Endotoxemia is when endotoxins are present in the blood. This occurs when certain bacteria within your horse’s intestines have entered the bloodstream. If not treated quickly, these intestinal disorders can lead to laminitis, shock, and even death.
Intestinal disorders can affect both horses and foals of any age and breed. There are no specific breeds that are predisposed to have intestinal disorders. All horses should be examined daily by their owner for any symptoms of intestinal problems.
It is not uncommon for a horse to have a slight overgrowth of bacteria within the intestines, causing some form of intestinal disorder. The most common intestinal disorder is colic, but there are several other intestinal disorders that can cause similar symptoms but require different treatments.
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Symptoms of Intestinal Disorders Other Than Colic in Horses
Intestinal disorders in horses of any age can be extremely dangerous and potentially life threatening. The condition will lead to a rapid deterioration and if left untreated, will lead to death. Contact your veterinarian as soon as any symptoms present for a full examination and definitive diagnosis of an intestinal disorder.
- Severe diarrhea
- Elevated pulse rate
- Dark purple mucous membranes
- Abdominal pain
- Fever that is followed by abnormally low body temperature
Causes of Intestinal Disorders Other Than Colic in Horses
The cause of intestinal disorders other than colic is usually from a toxin called LPS or lipopolysaccharide. It is present in the cell walls of a gram negative bacterium. While some gram negative bacteria are naturally occurring within the intestinal flora, an overgrowth will cause harm.
Previous illness in your horse can cause an overgrowth of gram negative bacteria. This overgrowth will breach the intestinal wall and enter your horse’s bloodstream. As the bacteria die, their cell walls will breakdown and release LPS into the blood, causing endotoxemia.
There are some conditions that are considered to be precursors to intestinal disorders in horses. Those include damage to the mucous barrier in the intestines, twisted gut, inflammation of the small intestine, colitis, infection of the umbilicus in foals or insufficient ingestion of colostrum in foals.
Diagnosis of Intestinal Disorders Other Than Colic in Horses
Your veterinarian will begin her assessment of your horse by asking you questions about the symptoms you have seen and any behavioral changes that may be presenting. Usually when a horse develops an intestinal disorder other than colic, it is as a secondary issue to another serious disease.
Your veterinarian will complete a full physical examination. A complete blood count, urinalysis and fecal examination will help in the diagnosis of an intestinal disorder and give your veterinarian a definitive diagnosis of exactly which intestinal disorder is affecting your horse. A bacterial culture of your horse’s blood will show signs of LPS within the blood.
Treatment of Intestinal Disorders Other Than Colic in Horses
In order for your horse to have a chance of a full recovery, a treatment plan needs to be implemented immediately. After your veterinarian has definitively diagnosed an intestinal disorder, she will begin intensive antibiotics.
Supportive care, including IV fluid therapy, may be required to keep your horse hydrated and support the cardiovascular system. Hospitalization is usually necessary when IV supportive care is needed.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also be used to help control your horse’s pain and any inflammation within the intestines. It will also aid in counteracting the endotoxin causing the intestinal disorder. Flunixin meglumine or Banamine is the most commonly used NSAID for horses suffering from intestinal disorders.
If the intestinal disorder is a secondary disease caused by an underlying condition, your veterinarian will simultaneously treat both conditions. The treatment plan for the second disease or condition will vary depending on what other condition your horse is suffering from.
Recovery of Intestinal Disorders Other Than Colic in Horses
Full recovery is possible when diagnosed with intestinal disorders, though intestinal disorders are very dangerous for your horse and it is imperative that treatment is begun immediately. Many horses that are treated aggressively for intestinal disorders still do not recover fully or death does occur. Your horse’s prognosis will be guarded and your veterinarian will be able to give you a better understanding of your horse’s condition.
Debilitating illnesses can occur from an intestinal disorder that causes your horse extreme discomfort or long term problems, even if a full recovery from the intestinal disorder does happen.
Continue all treatments as directed by your veterinarian and report any changes in your horse’s condition to your veterinarian. All medications need to be given as directed, any questions regarding side effects or dosage instructions should be directed toward your veterinarian.