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Answer Exchange

  • Q:

    I own a two-year-old colt with a long history of nervousness and spookiness, as well as a tendency to gas colic. He does not tolerate coastal Bermudagrass or alfalfa (lucerne) hay well and does best on timothy. Because of his temperament, I thought he might have gastric ulcers, but my vet doesn’t think so. He will sometimes eat sand, so we have him on a psyllium supplement, too. Any ideas as what might be the root cause of the colic?

  • A:

    The fact that your colt does not perform well on coastal or alfalfa hay may indicate that there are some sensitivities in his hindgut. For some horses, alfalfa hay is too rich and can result in excessive gas production and unusually loose manure, and coastal hay has been identified as a cause of colic in some horses. A first step in helping this horse might be to consider a different type of hay.

    Does your colt receive a product that contains salt, vitamins, and minerals? Horses that do not have free-choice access to salt or consume diets deficient in trace minerals often search for an alternative source leading to the consumption of dirt or sand. If your colt is receiving a balanced diet, then his consumption of sand, especially if it becomes a chronic habit, can be an indication of gastric ulcers. For definitive diagnosis of gastric ulcers, he will require an endoscopic examination.

    Horses prone to producing excessive amounts of gas in the gastrointestinal tract often benefit from a digestive buffer, such as EquiShure and RiteTrac. EquiShure is a time-released hindgut buffer that helps maintain a proper pH in the cecum and colon, and RiteTrac contains both stomach and hindgut buffers that can help alleviate digestive discomfort. (Australian horse owners are encouraged to use KER products available in their area.) (Sometimes it can be difficult to determine if the spooky behavior is the result of digestive discomfort or if the tendency to be nervous and internalize stress causes the digestive discomfort.

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