A horse’s digestive system is one of the more vulnerable systems in the animal kingdom, and a good horseman should always aim to keep a keen eye on their horse’s behavior and physical condition to make sure they are fit and healthy, or you may risk experiencing serious health issues that could have easily been avoided.
One noticeable issue that can trouble horses is an excess of gas, as it can easily become trapped and cause considerable pain as well as many other dangers. It’s important to learn how to spot signs of discomfort related to the digestive system when owning a horse, and there are many key features that require research and planning to prevent certain risks from increasing.
Why Do Horses Pass Gas?
Horses do not normally burp or fart often, and some owners may never witness their horse passing gas at all. So, when your horse begins to pass a considerable amount of gas, you may become alarmed. Is their digestion being disrupted or blocked somehow? Is this a sign of colitis? Has there been an increase in bad bacteria inside their gut? Will they fall victim to colic? Many questions are likely to whizz through your mind, yet more often than not the problem isn’t as bad as it seems.
Most of the time a horse’s diet and the overall health of their intestines are the root causes of flatulence and bloating, meaning you may be feeding them with the wrong food, or they may have an underlying medical condition that is triggering their flatulence. You must be able to recognize the warning signs that suggest a more serious problem is taking root, as horses can fall irreparably ill when experiencing issues that put tremendous pressure on the internal organs.
How Does Diet Affect Flatulence?
A horse’s gut is home to an array of different microbes whose purpose is to digest food in order to produce energy, vitamins, and other substances that support the body, all whilst maintaining a good balance between the positive and potentially negative bacteria. When a horse consumes a diet that contains a greater amount of gas-producing bacteria, the horse will become more flatulent as a result, just like a person eating beans! Signs of flatulence may develop immediately after consuming such foods, but these symptoms should pass after the gas-producing ingredients are fully digested and passed out as manure.
If you believe that your horse’s excess gas stems from the food that they eat, then aim to choose something that is as bland as can be (such as grass or oat hay, oat hay). Though it may be good to treat your horse to the occasional alfalfa, consuming foods that have too much fat and protein simply isn’t the natural diet of a horse, and will no doubt lead to digestional issues.
What Does Trapped Gas Cause?
When a horse experiences trapped gas, they often feel excruciating pain accompanied with a serious case of bloating or colic. Bloating or colic occurs when your horse’s digestive system has too much gas contained inside it, and bloating can occur in the stomach and even further ahead inside the small intestine and colon. This trapped gas causes a huge build up of pressure inside the sensitive digestive organs, potentially causing damage to the walls of the stomach or intestines in more severe cases.
Bloat or colic should be a clear indicator that something isn’t right inside your horse’s gut, so it’s vital that you make an effort to relieve their trapped gas to avoid bloat from occurring. Sporting colic doesn’t have to be difficult, as there are several symptoms that you can look for. Restlessness and pawing at the ground, excessive sweating and fast breathing, kicking towards the stomach, frequently stretching as if to urinate and regularly rolling of attempting to roll can all signal bloating or colic, so if you spot these signs you must take immediate action.
What Are Ulcers, And Can They Contribute To Flatulence?
Unfortunately, horses can fall victim to stomach ulcers that have a serious impact on their overall health and wellbeing. There isn’t much concrete evidence to suggest what causes ulcers to occur, but the most widely accepted theory is that excess acid, severe stress, certain medications and sometimes bad bacteria can encourage the growth of gastric ulcers. Ulcers can be hard to spot, as the majority of suffering horses will not show any outward symptoms to suggest they are in terrible pain. Instead, they can display more subtle symptoms like a lack of appetite and poor quality or degrading coat.
The exact type of ulcer that a horse has will depend on the location of the ulcer itself. The horse’s stomach is made up of two parts, the squamous and glandular regions, and these different environments can encourage two separate ulcer types. Around 80% of horse ulcers occur inside the squamous region of the digestive system, and these cases are known as equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS).
On the other hand, those occurring inside the glandular area will be diagnosed as equine glandular gastric disease (EGGD), and will likely require different treatment. Ulcers can contribute towards an excess of gas and increased flatulence, as they disrupt the normal rhythm of the digestive system and encourage the growth of harmful bacteria that damages the inner walls.
Can Horses Throw Up?
The short answer to this question is no, horses cannot throw up. It is practically impossible for a horse to vomit, however in serious cases a horse may end up being sick, which signals that there is something seriously wrong with their health.
Horses generally can’t throw up due to the design of their digestive system and the layout and sizing of their internal organs. They have a one way esophageal muscle with a cut off valve that leads straight to their stomach, and this one way valve makes it near impossible for anything to retreat back out in the opposite direction. To add to this, their esophagus joins with the stomach at a far lower angle when compared with animals that do have the capacity to vomit.