An Alternative to Prunes?

Every now and then I will see a horse with chronic diarrhea, usually an older guy, where the owners have tried everything they can think of and spent countless dollars trying to fix, to no avail.

The first one of these I saw was in my first month of working at my new practice. Freckles is an elderly Appaloosa gelding who had a 3-4 month history of chronic diarrhea that was slowly worsening, along with some weight loss. His physical exam was unremarkable, other than the filth covering his rear end underneath his tail and between his hind legs and a body condition of about 4/9.

The ladies running the lesson program that Freckles belongs to had tried everything, deworming, expensive probiotics, new PRE-biopics, fecal exams, blood work… They couldn’t find an answer or a solution to the problem.

I agreed it was strange, we talked about changing his feed, I checked his teeth, and out of pure curiosity I grabbed a couple of fecal balls and floated them in a rectal sleeve.

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It was chock full of sand. (Those pictures are just examples, Freckles actually had black sand in his manure.)

I still recommended changing Freckles’ feed due to the presence of very large particles of I digested feed in his manure. I also highly recommended they start him on a product called Sand Clear, which is basically just psyllium (soluble fiber). Similar to Metamucil in people, it will help push the sand out of his system.

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Now I would like to mention that Sand Clear just happens to be the product I know that is easy to find locally, I believe they carry it at Tractor Supply. However, any psyllium product designed for horses should work. My practice doesn’t carry it, so I don’t get any kickbacks from prescribing this supplement. And it doesn’t require a prescription.

Freckles’ owners called several days later to say that his diarrhea had completely cleared up. I was happy for them, but not extremely surprised given that we had found sand in his manure. I moved on and didn’t think much more about it.

Then, last month, one of the ladies at my barn, an M.D. who works as a forensic pathologist (she is AWESOME), was talking with our trainer about her senior horse’s runny stool. He constantly had runny manure caked on his backside, and she was at her wits end to try to solve the problem. She also complained that Bailey was looking a little ribby, and that he had seemed a little depressed to her.

I mentioned Sand Clear to her, and she said she would give it a try, but nothing else had worked so she wasn’t very hopeful.

I remembered that I had picked some up for my own mare, that has been rattling around in the back seat of the truck for a couple of months. I ran out and grabbed it for her, and then told her that I just wanted to experiment with it. I said, if it doesn’t work for Bailey, don’t worry about paying me back, it’s really cheap so it’s not a big deal. But if it does work for him she can just replace my tub for me.

She was excited to start it that evening.

I was away from my barn for several days after that, and didn’t see Janice until 4-5 days later. She ran up to me and hugged me, and said she was ecstatic, Bailey seemed brighter and his diarrhea was gone. He had been living with it for several months and she really truly thought that this was just going to be his life now, and she was overjoyed that we were able to make him better.

I was ecstatic for her as well. Successes always make me happy, especially for good friends who just have their horses’ best interests at heart.

So, I can’t say that Sand Clear will fix every horse’s diarrhea, and I’m not trying to say that. I have just noticed a pattern of old horses with chronic diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, and dullness, tending to respond well to psyllium with minimal diagnostics. I would love to hear of anyone else having good luck with it as well :)

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