Horses have a delicate balance of acid and alkaline. Acidosis occurs from an imbalance of the pH, which occurs from having too much acid from the digestive tract of the horse, cutting alkaline reserves.
The horse’s stomach, which secretes acids continuously, is designed to accommodate a small and continuous flow of high fiber material – the result of constant grazing on grass. How we feed horses is often very different. Horses are commonly fed just two or three times a day and their diets consist of large amounts of processed grain feed. Both of these are completely different from how horses function in nature and can quickly lead to digestive problems in horses. Breeding horses or athletes require a lot of starch-based foods for energy. A diet high in grains, combined with overwork and stress, produces a excess acid. When horses eat a lot of starch, foods high in cereal, starch is fermented in the large intestine by bacteria. This leads to an increase in the lactic acid and this fatty acid production in the intestine cause acidosis in the large intestine.
The first sign of acidosis is loss of appetite and low energy. The horse may also display colic behavior because inflamed intestinal lining.
Treatment and Prevention
A supplemental formula sodium bicarbonate is often added to the feed of the horse to maintain pH level suitable for treating acidosis.
To prevent digestive imbalance in horses it is important to allow the horse to live as nature intended:
- Plenty of turnout
- Constant access to quality grazing or forage
- Small grain meals fed multiple times a day
Tags: horse health