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GastroBalance PLUS Can Help with Foal Scours

by Dr Clair Thunes PhD Nutrition
Consulting Nutritionist for EnviroEquine & PET
nutritionist@enviroequineandpet.com

Anyone who has experience foaling out broodmares has experienced foal heat diarrhea or scours. Common in foals between 1 to 2 weeks of age this diarrhea tends to coincide with the mares first post foal heat cycle. The changing hormonal profile in the mare effecting the milk has traditionally been blamed for this unsightly condition that is often irritating to the foal’s delicate skin. But in fact it is not Mom’s fault, as the diarrhea is most likely caused by the changing bacterial population in the foal’s digestive tract.

Foals are born with a very limited bacterial profile in their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts. This population diversifies after birth with everything the foal puts in his mouth, both food and other curious objects in the environment. Foals frequently practice coprophagy (eating feces) and this is thought to further help populate their GI tract with the bacteria from mature horses thanks to the bacteria that have passed from the mature horse’s digestive tract in the feces. With these shifts in the bacterial population of the GI tract comes the risk of diarrhea.

It is important to determine whether a foal may in fact have a more serious viral form of diarrhea caused by a rotavirus of salmonella bacterium. Typical foal heat diarrhea does not result in a sick foal. Foals are typically bright and experience no fever versus one with a more serious form of potentially infectious diarrhea which results in fever (temp over 100.5oF), reduced appetite, depression and lethargy. The form of the diarrhea is also different. Healthy feces in a foal is a pastey yellowish color whereas feces of foals with diarrhea takes on a more watery consistency. With foal heat diarrhea this is only slightly watery and with rotavirus or salmonella the diarrhea becomes profuse and very watery. Note that a sick foal may not nurse as often and you may notice that the mare’s udder is more swollen than expected. You may also notice hair loss around the foal’s tail from scalding.

Because diarrhea can lead to dehydration and it can be hard to determine how serious the diarrhea is it is always advisable to contact your veterinarian if your foal develops diarrhea. In some cases intravenous fluids may be necessary. Antibiotics are generally not indicated for foal heat diarrhea and most cases resolve on their own in a few days. However this diarrhea can cause a certain level of discomfort in the foal and provision of oral prebiotics such as live yeast may be of benefit as these have been shown to help stabilize the equine gastrointestinal tract. Bentonite clay is a common anti-diarrheal ingredient having been shown to absorb toxins produced by some bacteria.

EnviroEquine GastroBalance Plus provides a full serving of live yeast and bentonite clay to help support a healthy GI tract. This product is available in paste form for easy dosing via syringe. This makes it very easy to dose foals not eating solid feed.

All types of diarrhea in foals can case the sensitive skin around the perineum and buttocks due to scald. Washing the skin with mild soap to remove any feces, drying and then coating the skin with a barrier is advised. EnviroEquine Equine Fungicide Plus with its Camelina oil, natural vitamin E and essential oils will help soothe and heal damaged skin.