My senior Belgian Draft mare has a chronic condition where her stools are relatively solid but after having a stool, she passes fecal liquid separately, Her tail and hind end, and legs are covered. Initially when she came to me she had loose stools and the vet did a fecal and we put her on Biosponge. Her Fecal Sample showed minimal infestation and the Biosponge did not do much. Over time, her stools became more solid but the liquid continued. Now, after being with me for about 6 months we are still having this issue.
So, I did some research and came across an article on something I had never heard of before- Fecal Water Syndrome. According to an article on SmartPak.com, Fecal Water Syndrome is typically caused by the following;
The underlying cause of FWS in horses is not known at this time and there are many theories as to why some horses develop it. A group of researchers in Germany set out to explore some of the proposed theories and discovered that neither dental disease nor a heavy parasite burden seemed to be associated with FWS. However, it was found to be more likely to occur:
- in horses of low rank or “pecking order” in the social hierarchy of a herd
- in winter when subordinate horses were confined to a smaller space, leading to anxiety
- in geldings vs mares, which are usually more dominant than geldings
- in paint horses
However, the article also noted that due to FWS being a relatively new diagnosis, more studies are needed to look at the role stress, nutrition, and potentially, other factors in the development and management of FWS.
Diagnosis of FWS
Most veterinarians approach the diagnosis of a horse with FWS similar to one with diarrhea or loose stool. That is, they start by taking a thorough history from the owner, then perform a complete physical examination with special emphasis on the digestive system, and finally may recommend specific tests to evaluate the health of the horse in general and the GI tract in particular. It can be helpful to confirm the presence of soiled hind limbs and tail as well as dirty stall walls and bedding. While on the farm, the vet may want to walk through the regular feeding and management programs including turnout and herd status.
Treatment and Management of FWS
Although there is no standard treatment or set of recommendations for the care and feeding of horse suffering from FWS, all potential causes for disruption in the GI system should be addressed, including social stress.
- Making adjustments to the horse’s turn-out time and group.
- Making adjustments to the diet (with the input of a veterinarian and nutritionist.)
- Trying out various medications and supplements one at a time on the passage of fecal water. For example, adding omega 3 fatty acids for a normal inflammatory response in the gut, and to the stabilizing effects of “baker’s yeast” or Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
- Make sure to keep the hindquarters clean and dry to prevent any sores for forming.
Tilly came to me from a slaughter auction in Texas after 17-ish years as an Amish workhorse. She was thin (she still is), sick (upper respiratory infection) had cracked hooves, had never had her teeth floated (they made a horrible grinding and clicking sound when she ate), and apparently had never been clipped or bathed or worn a blanket. I do not think she had ever even had a treat (she still won’t take an apple or carrot).
- Rumbling gut
- Cow pie stools
- Grinding/clicking teeth
- Cracked hooves
- Dull coat
- Running nose
- Farrier for evaluation and trimming
- Dentist for power float of teeth
- Vet for physical, blood work, and fecal
- CBC: all in normal range aside from her creatinine and protein suggesting dehydration. These values normalized after about 1 week)
- Fecal: Minimal
- Triple Crown Senior Feed (Low sugars, low starch, high fat)
- Tons of water with Horse Quencher added
- Salt block
- Exceed injections (2 total a week apart) then SMZ for 2 weeks
- Brewer’s Yeast (Stomach)
- BioSponge (Gut health and to tackle her loose stools)
- Electrolytes (To help with dehydration)
- Strongid wormer
Top to bottom:
Tilly on her way from Texas
Tilly when she first arrived in Virginia
Her feet upon arrival
Getting her teeth and feet done
Tilly after being clipped and bathed!