Acute colitis in horses. Part I. Assessment Academic Article uri icon


  • Management of acute colitis in horses poses a challenge for many equine practitioners. Definitive diagnosis can be difficult or impossible because specific causes of acute equine colitis are legion and difficult to identify. Diagnosis is further complicated by the identification of multiple causative agents in some affected horses. Identifying a specific infectious or toxic cause can lead to appropriate efforts to reduce the spread or severity of disease in a group of horses. Careful consideration of signalment, history, and physical examination should be coupled with a diagnostic plan. Worldwide, salmonellosis is considered to be the most common cause of infectious enterocolitis in adult horses. Risk factors for equine enteric salmonellosis include transportation, change in diet, antimicrobial treatment, surgery, shared nasogastric tubes, wet and dark conditions, and other gastrointestinal disorders. There are various clinical signs of colitis in horses; diarrhea is common and is often the primary complaint. Diagnostic testing should include clinicopathologic evaluation and specific efforts to identify the causes of colitis. Clinicopathologic findings in horses with colitis often include acidemia, hyponatremia, hypochloremia, and hypokalemia. Part I of this two-part presentation considers the approach to determining the cause of acute equine colitis. The second part will discuss initial management of patients with the condition.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Cohen, N. D., & Divers, T. J.

complete list of authors

  • Cohen, ND||Divers, TJ

publication date

  • January 1998