Leaky Gut, a frequently seen condition which may cause a myriad of clinical signs such as behavioral changes, reduced work performance, bone and joint issues, and skin allergies is what is referred to as leaky gut syndrome (LGS). This syndrome occurs when the cells that make up the lining of the intestinal tract are themselves damaged, or the tight junctions which join the cells together break down.
A common condition which is seen in horses is that of hind gut or colonic ulcers (often referred to as Right Dorsal Colitis). Ulcers develop when the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract thins and the microbiome becomes out of balance.
Perhaps the number one digestive issue that comes to the minds of knowledgeable equestrians is that of colic. The most frequently seen causes of colic include high-grain / low-forage containing diets, feed containing mold or other toxins, an abrupt change in diet, dehydration, parasite infection, long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, sand ingestion, stress (from training, changes in the environment or climate, etc) dental problems and antibiotic therapy leading to the alteration of the normal microbial population within the gut.
There are a large number of disorders that can impact the equine intestinal tract, all with corresponding clinical signs which can be subtle or quite dramatic. These clinical signs include diarrhea, constipation or a decrease in fecal production, reduced appetite, blood in the feces, abdominal pain and bloating, dehydration, shock, straining to defecate, and poor performance.
The purpose of the following article is to provide an overview of the equine intestinal tract, including its anatomy, how it functions in a healthy state, the most commonly seen intestinal diseases, clinical signs of these illnesses, as well as therapeutic options to address the illnesses. Finally, preventative measures which can be used through proper diet and husbandry practices will conclude this article.