Colic and Equine Enteroliths: Rock Bottom

One of the more exotic forms of colic is caused by enteroliths, or stone-like formations that form in a horse’s digestive tract.

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Colic, or abdominal pain, is a common ailment in horses. More than 70 causes can trigger colic, including gas distention, food impactions, intestinal tract spasms, and intestinal displacement or twists. One of the more exotic forms is colic caused by enteroliths, or stone-like formations that form in a horse’s digestive tract.

Enterolith stones are made up of minerals, such as magnesium ammonium phosphate salts. These minerals can build up around an object that a horse eats but does not digest, such as a small chunk of wood, pebble, wire, twine, or other foreign object. These masses can become quite large, sometimes weighing in at 10 to 15 pounds or more.

Sometimes horses develop one large stone, while others chronically develop multiple stones. The stones form in the large colon of the horses and cause a problem once they move to areas of the intestine that have smaller diameters, such as the transverse colon or the small colon.

Smaller enteroliths might pass with feces, but if horses produce smaller stones, larger ones might remain. Mild chronic or intermittent colic can plague horses with a single stone that has not grown large enough to cause a total impaction or has not moved to a narrower area. These horses might also suffer from weight loss, diarrhea, or lethargy

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