Known as Crohn's disease or Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) in humans, horses suffer from the same disease that is classified as Equine Granulomatous Enteritis. IBD is a type of gastro-intestinal disorder that causes inflammation and irritation in the digestive tract's mucus membranes. It affects the large and small intestines, along with the regional lymph nodes.
A mystery to veterinarians, IBD causes in horses is still relatively unknown. Occurring suddenly or over time, veterinarians only know of a few contributing factors. Poor diet, parasites, viral and bacterial infections, stress, allergies to food and the continued use of antibiotics seem to exacerbate the condition.
Weight loss and chronic diarrhea are the most noticeable symptoms. Episodes of recurring colic, bloating of the stomach, abdominal pain and flatulence may also appear. Low levels of protein in the blood is often present, but can go unnoticed without the appropriate blood tests. Horses may suffer from one or two of these symptoms at a time, while severe cases may develop most or all symptoms.
Corticosteroids, the antimetabolite azathioprine and metronidazole are medications veterinarians may prescribe for relief of symptoms; however, they have low success rates in IBD horses. Feeding high-quality, high-energy feed and changing the feeding routine can help horses suffering with this condition. Surgery is also a viable option if the infected area of the intestine is small and easily accessible.