What Causes Diarrhoea in foals?

28th February 2019











The meaning of scour quite literally is ‘purging of the bowels’ and is a common name for diarrhoea. Scour in foals can be caused or triggered by several different factors; these can include a change in environment or a similar stressful situation which alters the Ph of the gut, triggering scour. This can enable harmful microorganisms to gain significant hold in the gastrointestinal tract; these could include Rotavirus, Salmonella or C. Perfringens.

Foal Heat Diarrhoea occurs typically from about 9 days after birth during the mare’s first heat, hence the name.
It is thought to be caused by the foal ingesting faecal material on the mare and generally only lasts a few days and is
a natural process of foals and other young animals that enable them to acquire essential gut microflora and fauna.


How do you distinguish foal heat scour and infectious causes of diarrhoea?

Foals experiencing foal heat diarrhoea will not be systemically ill; they will normally remain bright, active and alert without fever and will continue to nurse well. A foal with infectious causes of diarrhoea will tend to be quiet, depressed, will not nurse well and often has a fever.
Determine the foal’s temperature; normal rectal temperature is between 99° and 101.5°F. Monitor the foal’s nursing habits; it should be nursing several times an hour. Check the mare’s udders to ensure they are not extremely full or even dripping, this will confirm if the foal is nursing adequately or not.
Monitor the foal for signs of diarrhoea, foal heat diarrhoea usually results in mildly loose or very slightly watery diarrhoea, and the challenges are a loss of fluids and electrolytes. Diarrhoea from infectious causes will be extremely watery.
Other cases of diarrhoea can be associated with changes in feed, making gradual changes over several days can help minimise these upsets.
If in any doubt about your foal’s health or diarrhoea always consult your veterinarian.


How to stop or treat diarrhoea?

Correct nutrition and treatment are an essential process in the ‘how to stop diarrhoea’ question. Treatment is based around the concept of ensuring that the gut is protected to avoid bacterial invasion of the intestinal epithelium. The intestinal epithelium is the single cell layer that forms the luminal surface or lining of both the small and large intestine — removing harmful toxins, maintaining correct electrolyte and body fluid levels and stimulating the gastrointestinal tract with the colonisation of beneficial microorganisms.

Various preparations can be used to help in these processes; brand names such as Biosponge, Protexin, Tuffrock and Friska Foal.
In our opinion, Diazorb Paste by TRM is one of the most comprehensive preparations available due to its composition of Bentonite, Prebiotics, Probiotics, Pectin, Dextrose and Sodium Chloride in the correct formulation.
Bentonite is a highly absorbent phyllosilicate clay which helps to absorb toxins, lining the gut at the same time to reduce inflammation and the passing of microorganisms from the lumen into the animal. Prebiotics are compounds that aid the development of beneficial microflora in the gut. The most effective prebiotics are thought to be Fructo-oligosaccharides and mannan-oligosaccharides. Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms; Saccharomyces Cerevisiae will reproduce in the hindgut. Pectin is a dietary fibre, helping to reduce the flow of fluids in the faeces. Dextrose is a simple sugar energy source. Lastly, sodium chloride is an electrolyte mix for rapid electrolyte replacement and very important to the animal’s recovery
Diazorb Paste from TRM is also suitable for adult horses experiencing unusually loose stools or diarrhoea. Always ensure there is not an underlying serious health issue causing the diarrhoea.


The take-home message is don’t ignore digestive tract upsets. Essential and fast treatment and nutrition are essential to prevent sickness and even death in extreme cases.