Stress-Induced Digestive Upset Associated with Microbial Imbalance

Before the rooster crows, you and your horses are already loaded up and on the road to your next event. Competition brings joy, excitement and butterflies to our stomachs, so imagine how your horse could be feeling? You guessed it, traveling and competing can bring great stress to our four-legged friends, but they will often give only subtle hints. As good horsemen, we need to observe these behaviors to avoid digestive upset in the horse. Have you ever found yourself asking, “Why is my horse off-feed?” or “Why does my horse have diarrhea?” If so, your horse could be suffering from stress-induced digestive upset.

Why is my horse off-feed? 

You give your horse his breakfast, but he turns his nose up at it with no interest in eating today. There are many reasons horses tend to go off-feed including behavior, changes in feed, changes in environment, physical pain (such as a mouth sore or tooth ache), ulcers, colic or high performance/stress. It is important to always observe your horse to know his normal behaviors and check often for abnormalities. Has this happened before? Has he been drinking? Pooping? Does he have gut sounds? If you answer no to these questions and your horse seems uncomfortable, you may be dealing with an emergency—in which case you need to call your veterinarian right away.

If this isn’t your first rodeo and your horse goes off-feed from time to time, Vitalize® Equine Recovery Gel has been shown to increase appetite to get your horse’s back on their feed and performing at their best in no time. It contains the precision-based prebiotic Amaferm, pathogen-sequestering MOS and a combination of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and anti-oxidants proven to help horses in times of stress.

Why does my horse have diarrhea?

Another form of stress-induced digestive upset is diarrhea. Diarrhea in horses can cause dehydration, malnutrition and a very uncomfortable horse. Often it is just a mild fluke stemming from stress, where your horse only experiences problems for less than 12 hours, is able to stay hydrated and is not excreting more than usual. This is common in competition horses who experience a shift in the microbial population in the gut, which disrupts the guts pH and can cause diarrhea.

However, there is also the chance for a serious problem, such as disease or parasites, in which case your horse could show signs of colic or laminitis, long-term defecating, dehydration, blood in the feces, depression or fever. In this second scenario, we recommend contacting your veterinarian immediately to diagnose the root of the problem.

If you suspect your horse has mild diarrhea and does not require advice from your vet, be sure to monitor that his symptoms are improving, he is staying hydrated and consider administering Vitalize Equine Recovery Gel. The gel which will help balance out the microbes in the gut, which could be causing the digestive upset, and also give him a boost of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and anti-oxidants that he could be missing since his body has not been processing his food properly.

The Bottom Line

Both going off-feed and diarrhea can range from very mild to life-threatening, so it is important to know your horse and use common sense to recognize when it is time to contact your veterinarian. In those milder situations brought on by stress, use Vitalize Equine Recovery Gel to help get the gut back on track and to ensure your horse is feeling and competing his best. If the gut isn’t happy, your horse isn’t happy!