Equine Faecal Water Syndrome

Equine Faecal Water Syndrome

What is equine faecal water syndrome? 


Equine Faecal Water Syndrome (EFWS) is a condition in which faeces are passed as normal, however before, during or after this faecal water will also be passed. Whilst rarely a huge concern, EFWS can be unsightly and frustrating to manage and often comes with increased labour.


Symptoms of equine faecal water syndrome

The biggest tell tale sign of EFWS is faecal matter staining across the tail and hind legs. Horses with EFWS may also exhibit other symptoms such as frequent defecation, straining during defecation and irritation or inflammation around the anus. Many horses with the condition will appear otherwise healthy and show no other signs of illness.


The role of the hind gut

EFWS is a condition that stems from the hind gut. The horse’s hind gut is where the reabsorption of water from the digestive tract should occur, this plays a key role in the normal development of faecal matter. Within the hind gut there is also a population of good bacteria known as the microbiome, the horse’s microbiome plays a super important role in the digestion of fibre.


Causes of equine faecal water syndrome 

There is no single established cause of EFWS however a number of factors are thought to contribute to the development of the condition. Dybiosis (a disruption in the microbiome) in the hind gut is thought to be one of the main causes of EFWS. There are many factors that can contribute to this. Some factors that can contribute to microbiome imbalance include:

  • Making sudden changes to the diet
  • Not having an adequate forage intake
  • Feeding a diet that is high in sugar and starch
  • Stress


How to Manage EFWS

As sudden dietary changes can lead to digestive upset, it is important that any dietary changes are made gradually over a period of at least one week as this will allow the horse’s microbiome population to adapt accordingly.


Fibre based diet

The horse’s digestive system is designed to cope with a fibre based diet, it is important that every horse’s diet is based primarily off either a high quality forage or grazing, both high in fibre. Where possible forage should be provided on an ad lib basis. As a minimum horses should consume at least 1.5% of their body weight in forage daily, this ensures gut mobility and will help keep the microbiome population stable.


Forage replacements

Horses who struggle to consume adequate quantities of forage may benefit from being fed a forage replacement such as Speedibeet, hay pellets or grass pellets. These are soaked prior to feeding which gives them a mash consistency making them more digestible options for horses who are dentally challenged or those with a more limited appetite. If your horse struggles to eat forage it is also a good idea to consult with an equine dentist as this can often be a sign of a dental issue that needs to be addressed. Horses should have a routine dentist appoint every 6-12 months.


Avoid high sugar & starch feeds

Concentrate feeds and feeds with a high sugar and starch content should be kept to a minimum as the digestive system will struggle to cope with large quantities of these. Ideally any feeds that are being given to horses with EFWS should have a combined sugar and starch content no greater than 10%.


Be cautious of Spring grass

When introducing grazing in the Spring, it is also important that this is done gradually. Spring grass is very rich in sugar, this is why horses will often experience digestive upset and loose droppings when initially introduced to grazing.


Minimise stress 

As stress can negatively influence gut health it is important that a horse’s stress levels are kept to a minimum. Providing horses with environmental enrichment, access to turn out and allowing them to express natural behaviours are just some of the methods that can be used to minimise stress levels.


Cleanse the gut 

If your horse suffers from EFWS it may be worth carrying out a gut cleanse using psyllium husks. We recommend feeding 100g of psyllium husks per day for 3-4 days in order to promote gut cleansing. You can carry out a gut cleanse using this method once a month if needed. Psyllium husks work to carry out a gentle cleanse, removing toxins from the digestive system and absorbing excess stomach acid to maintain a healthy overall gut environment.


Feed a high quality probiotic or prebiotic 

Horses who suffer from EFWS may benefit from being fed a high quality probiotic or prebiotic gut supplement to support the microbiome colony within their hind gut. Our B-Complete gut supplement is made entirely from dried green Australian bananas. Due to their high fibre and resistant starch content, B-Complete acts as an excellent prebiotic for the good bacteria in the hind gut to maintain a healthy and balanced microbiome which is essential for all round digestive health.

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