What is Eosinophilic Enteritis in Horses?

Learn more about this challenging inflammatory condition that affects the horse’s intestines.
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What is Eosinophilic Enteritis in Horses?
Horses with idiopathic focal eosinophilic enteritis (IFEE) can develop fibrous bands around the circumference of their intestines. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Debra Archer

By Debra Archer, BVMS, PhD, CERTES (Soft Tissue), Dipl. ECVS, MRCVS, and Louise Southwood Parente, BVSC, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACVIS, ACVECC

Enteritis is an inflammatory condition that affects the small intestine, which includes the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. Some veterinarians also use enteritis to describe more generalized intestinal inflammation, including the large intestine (which is made up of the large colon , cecum , and small colon). The term enterocolitis or enterotyphlocolitis refers to inflammation of both the small and large intestine.  

There are several types of enteritis or enterocolitis. Eosinophilic enteritis is associated with infiltration of the intestinal wall with eosinophils, a type of white blood cell. Normal, healthy horses already have more eosinophils within their intestinal wall than other species. In eosinophilic enteritis cases, however, the number of eosinophils increases significantly or is accompanied by other cells that indicate a long-standing inflammation of the gut. Eosinophilic enteritis is generally considered a chronic disease, although acute signs of colic can occur. Eosinophils are an important part of the horse’s immune system; in particular, they provide immunity against intestinal parasites. Eosinophils are also associated with allergic conditions. The cause of eosinophilic enteritis, however, is largely “idiopathic,” or unknown

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