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Equine Practice
A practical approach to diarrhoea in the adult horse
  1. Mark Hillyer

    Mark Hillyer graduated in 1987 from Bristol, where he stayed on, first as an equine and farm animal clinician and, subsequently, as a lecturer. In 2002, he moved to Greenwood, Ellis and Partners, in Newmarket, where he provides a hospital-based referral service in equine internal medicine and soft tissue surgery. He holds a PhD for studies on equine colic and RCVS certificates in equine practice, equine soft tissue surgery and equine internal medicine. He is also a diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Abstract

DIARRHOEA in the adult horse may be due to a number of different causes and, in the field, multiple examinations may be required before a diagnosis is reached. However, in any individual case, the diagnosis may remain elusive, even on postmortem examination. One review of adult horses with diarrhoea referred to university equine clinics reported a confirmed diagnosis in 73 per cent of cases, but the diagnosis was achieved antemortem in only 29 per cent of these animals. As a result, the management of a horse with diarrhoea frequently has to be non-empirical and symptomatic. Often, the use of specific treatments is directed by clinical expectation rather than definitive diagnostic information. This article reviews the possible causes of diarrhoea in the adult horse and their salient characteristics, and describes an approach to the management of the condition. Where possible, an 'in the field' approach is adopted, which is particularly relevant to the management of horses with diarrhoea as the potential for the involvement of an infectious agent (primarily Salmonella species) means that hospitalisation and referral are usually not recommended.

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