Diseases affecting the gastrointestinal system are common in the horse and horses may present with clinical signs of colic, diarrhoea, inappetance, weight loss or poor performance. Depending on the nature of the problem, horses may be seen as day patients or admission to the hospital may be required to facilitate a more extensive work-up and treatment.
Investigation into causes of gastrointestinal disease may include a thorough physical and dental examination, blood sampling, rectal palpation and faecal analysis, video endoscopy, abdominal ultrasound, ventral abdominal radiography (ponies only) and dynamic absorption testing.
Abdominal ultrasound is used routinely in the workup and assessment of colic cases. It is also an important diagnostic tool in the investigation of horses with weight loss and can assist in the detection of tumours, cysts and abscesses. Ultrasound guidance is frequently used to allow safe and precise biopsy of internal structures such as the liver and kidneys.
Video endoscopy allows close and detailed visualisation of many parts of the gastrointestinal tract including the oesophagus, stomach, duodenum, rectum and small colon. Gastrodudenoscopy is the only definitive way to diagnose gastric ulcers in horses. Gastric pH sampling may also be performed to assess the effectiveness of treatment.
Radiography of the ventral abdomen allows detection and quantification of sand – a common cause of colic in horses in Western Australia. This procedure can be performed on ponies and small horses and sequential radiographs allow monitoring of response to treatment in such cases.
Where appropriate, a medical investigation will be conducted in collaboration with our surgeons to perform procedures such as laparoscopy (keyhole surgery of the abdomen) to allow visualisation of the abdominal cavity. In some cases, full surgical exploration of the abdomen may be required.
Emergency services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for investigation of colic and colitis.