Spring is definitely on the way. My friends and I are losing our long winter hair coats and new shoots of grass are beginning to appear in my pasture. These yummy little morsels are so tasty, but I have to graze right down to the ground to get them. This may be a bad idea I’ve been told. Grazing close to the ground like this and grazing grass that can be easily pulled up by the roots increases my chances of ingesting sand along with these yummy little treats. Yikes! I asked my friends at the Equine Science Center for a little help in finding out more about this potential problem. Read on to find out what I learned!
Sand colic is colic (abdominal pain) caused by ingestion of sand. Sand accumulates in the digestive tract and can cause irritation and blockage. If sand colic develops, you’ll want to call your veterinarian out to treat the problem. Your veterinarian will most likely try to diagnose the cause of the colic by using tools like ultrasound, radiographs, and listening to your horse’s gut with a stethoscope. Sometimes the veterinarian can hear the sand in the digestive tract. (It’s supposed to sound just like a beach scene with the waves lapping on the sand.) Treatment may include laxatives such as psyllium or mineral oil, intravenous fluids, and in severe cases surgery to remove the sand.
No one wants the problem to progress to colic, though. There are some steps you can take to minimize or prevent your horse from ingesting sand and developing a problem in the first place. You’ll want to make sure you feed your horse somewhere other than the ground, especially if the soil is sandy. Feed your horse in a feeder or even on a mat, so that it doesn’t accidently eat some sand or dirt along with the grain or hay. Restricting your horse’s access to pastures with freshly sprouted grass is a good idea. Your horse may accidently eat the roots and attached soil when the whole plant is uprooted during grazing. Avoid overgrazing pastures. When pastures are overgrazed, horse are more likely to consume some soil or sand along with the grass as they graze close to the ground.
No matter how hard you try, your horse may still end up ingesting sand. If you are worried about your horse accumulating sand in its digestive tract, you can feed a laxative such as psyllium. We don’t know why these types of treatments appear to be more effective in some horses and less effective in others. The recommendation is to feed laxatives intermittently, so your horse’s digestive tract doesn’t adjust and begin digesting the fiber rather than moving it through the digestive tract.
I guess I’m going to have to use a little more care as I graze all this new spring grass. After all, I don’t want to end up with a gut full of sand!
Until Next Time!