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Professional Version

Sand Enteropathy in Horses


Allison J. Stewart

, BVSc (Hons), PhD, DACVIM-LAIM, DACVECC, School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland

Reviewed/Revised Oct 2022
Topic Resources

Consumption of large amounts of sand can lead to accumulation, abrasion and impaction in the large intestine; diarrhea, weight loss, or colic may result. Sand is ingested when horses or foals are kept or fed in a sandy area (paddock, stall, or pasture). Drought conditions can lead to multiple animals being affected.

Diagnosis of sand enteropathy is based on history of a sandy environment, the presence of sand in the feces, “sand sounds” on auscultation of the ventral abdomen, and (if available) abdominal radiographs that reveal the presence of sand in the large colon. Treatment involves use of a hemicellulose product (psyllium seed hull) administered via nasogastric tube or added to the grain daily. Diarrhea generally resolves within 2–3 days of initiation of treatment. Generally, 3–4 weeks of treatment is necessary to remove most of the sand and may need to be repeated if the horse or foal is not removed from the source of sand.

Preventive psyllium treatment (daily for 1 week each month) has been used where sand enterocolitis is common. Several psyllium products are on the market; many horses prefer the pelleted over the powdered form. (Also see Cecum and Large Intestine Cecum and Large Intestine The most common cause of gastric dilatation in horses is excessive gas or intestinal obstruction. Gastric dilatation may be associated with overeating fermentable feedstuffs such as grains,... read more Cecum and Large Intestine and Colic in Horses Colic in Horses .)

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