How do I know if my horse has an enterolith?

Last Updated on April 15, 2022 by Allison Price

Enteroliths can be suspected if your horse has colic symptoms or is older than 10. These intestinal stones can be fatal if they are caught early. However, horses that have them removed will usually recover within a few weeks.

Enteroliths can be as small as a pea or softball and are composed of mineral masses that form around foreign matter within the horse’s colon. Although small enteroliths can be found in horse manure, they pose a greater risk to horses’ health.

Horse  Enterolith

Enteroliths are made of vivianite, struvite and a mixture containing sulfur, sodium and potassium as well as a combination of nickel, aluminum, magnesium, and calcium. They prevent food from moving through the digestive system. If the enterolith is large enough that it blocks the injesta from the intestines, severe cases can cause a rupture of the intestinal wall, which can lead to death.

Horses at High Risk from Enteroliths

Horses over 10 years old are more likely to have enteroliths. However, they can be seen in foals. So if a horse is experiencing recurring colic symptoms, it’s best to be cautious. Even though they are most common in Arabians, enteroliths can be found in any breed of horse.

Three factors have been identified by veterinarians as contributing to the formation of enteroliths in horses, but it is not known why certain horses are susceptible.

These are the three most commonly associated with enteroliths:

  • Study of lucerne hays may link to enterolith formation. Other studies suggest that mineral-rich feeds or water sources are the cause.
  • Management – Horses that have access to pasture are less likely to develop enteroliths than stable horses. This could be due to movement or certain bedding options, such as straw.
  • Genetics – A small percentage of horses, around 10%, have a genetic link. These horses may benefit from a reduction in calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, sodium, and potassium intake through diet and management.

Any horse suffering from recurring colic should have radiographs taken. Only a veterinary exam will be able you to determine if enteroliths may be the cause.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!