Gastro enterology

Most common conditions : colic, emaciation, chronic diarrhoea.

Complementary examinations that may be performed : blood tests, coprology, abdominal ultrasound, gastroscopy, duodenal biopsies, rectal biopsies, transrectal palpation, glucose absorption test.


Colic is one of the most common emergencies in equine medicine. This term means the presence of abdominal pain. Most of the time it is a pain in the digestive system (twisted or displaced intestines etc) and more rarely an extra-digestive pain (urinary system, reproductive system etc). It is important to have a rapid treatment by a veterinarian, a hospitalization and a surgery are sometimes necessary.

Weight loss

This is a significant loss of weight. There are many causes and it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint one.


Diarrhoea is quite common in horses. It can be benign or more serious, requiring the horse to be hospitalised in a clinic and put on a drip. The causes are diverse and additional tests can help establish a definitive diagnosis. 

Blood analysis

Blood analysis allows the evaluation of different parameters in the blood: the hydration level of the horse, the rate of inflammation, the renal, hepatic and muscular parameters, proteins, ions, the rate of vitamins etc.


Coprology is the examination of faeces. It can be used to detect parasites, bacteria, blood and sand, for example.

Abdominal ultrasound

Abdominal ultrasound is a medical imaging technique that allows the various organs of the abdomen to be visualised, such as the stomach, intestine, colon, liver, spleen and kidneys, or the presence of fluid.


Gastroscopy is an imaging technique that involves examining the first part of the digestive system using a camera. It does not require a general anaesthetic but only a sedative. The camera is inserted through the nose and descends to the stomach. This examination is of particular interest in horses where gastric ulcers are suspected.

Duodenal biopsies

When performing a gastroscopy, i.e. exploring the stomach with a camera, it is possible to reach the first part of the intestine, the duodenum. If abnormalities are found there, samples of the duodenum can be taken by a biopsy forceps inserted directly into the gastroscope. These samples will then be sent to the laboratory for microscopic analysis, otherwise known as histopathology. Inflammatory cells, for example, may be seen.

Rectal biopsies

Biopsies involve taking a sample of the lining of the rectum, the end of the intestines. This gives us an idea of the rest of the intestinal mucosa which is difficult to access without surgery. The sample is sent to the laboratory for microscopic analysis, otherwise known as histopathology. Inflammatory cells, for example, may be observed.

Transrectal palpation

Transrectal palpation is a manual examination in which the abdominal structures are felt through the wall of the rectum. It can be very useful in cases of colic, for example, one might feel that the bowel is displaced or filled with food.

Glucose absorption test

This test consists of placing a nasogastric tube in the horse to administer a sugar-rich solution. The blood sugar level is then measured regularly. The blood sugar level must reach a certain level after a certain time. If this is not the case, it means that the horse has a problem with the absorption of sugar and probably other essential nutrients.


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