How to Treat Scours in Horses

Turnout reduces stress and provides access to quality roughage.
Turnout reduces stress and provides access to quality roughage. (Image: horse image by Penny Williams from

Scours is the term used for diarrhea in horses. All horses can develop scours, but it is most common in foals and younger horses. Scours indicates that there is something going on in the horse's digestive tract. If diarrhea is the only symptom, you may be able to manage on your own. However, if your horse appears to be in pain, has pale gums, bites or kicks at his stomach, or otherwise doesn't appear well, contact your veterinarian, as scours can also be a symptom of several serious illnesses, including Potomac Horse Fever.

Things You'll Need

  • Worming medication
  • Probiotics

Examine your horse's diet. A recent change in diet can trigger scours. In particular, receiving a rich diet -- such as one high in concentrates like grain or during sudden access to spring grass -- can cause diarrhea. If this seems likely, cut the rich foods and feed quality hay. After the diarrhea clears up, reintroduce the concentrates slowly.

Manage stress. A recent injury or bad weather that keeps your horse from receiving regular exercise and turnout can lead to scours. If there has been a recent change in the amount of exercise your horse is receiving, this may be the culprit. If turnout is not possible, spend time hand-walking your horse, several times a day.

Treat parasites. Internal parasites can cause scours as well as other digestive issues. If your horse has not been dewormed recently, it may be time to do so. If he has been, take a stool sample to your vet to test to ensure he is parasite free. Resistance to worming medicine or improper worming methods may mean that even a horse that is regularly treated for worms may not be worm-free.

Add probiotics to the diet. Probiotics provide the needed intestinal bacteria that help with digestion. A drop or die-off of probiotics in the intestines can lead to scours. This can occur due to stress, antibiotic treatment or infection.

Provide access to clean water. Once the reason for scours is removed, whether it is a rich food source or antibiotics, the diarrhea will clear up. While you are waiting, it is important that your horse has access to water to stay hydrated.

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