Combination treatment proves best for sand colic

A combination option for clearing large accumulations of sand from a horse’s gut shows promise.

A combination of psyllium and magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) works better than either alone to clear sand from a horse’s large colon, according to a study from Finland.

Conducted at the University of Helsinki, the study compared treatments in 34 horses with naturally acquired accumulations of sand in the large intestine. Horses were randomly assigned to one of three groups that received different treatments: psyllium mucilloid, the dried husks from the seed of the Plantago ovata plant that expand in the colon to carry sand out of the digestive tract; Epsom salt, which draws water into the colon to act as a laxative; or a combination of the two.

Horses who live and graze on sandy soil may be at an increased risk of sand colic.

Prior to treatment, researchers took abdominal radiographs to measure how much sand had accumulated in each horse’s gut, determining that all were carrying more than 75 square centimeters. The horses then received treatment daily for four days. At the end of that period, a second set of radiographs was taken for comparison. If the sand measured less than 25 square centimeters, the case was considered resolved.

In comparing horses from the different treatment groups, the researchers found that nine of the 12 receiving both psyllium and magnesium sulfate cleared the sand accumulation in the four-day period. Only three of the 12 horses treated with psyllium alone cleared the sand, and only two of 10 treated with Epsom salt alone did.

The researchers conclude that the combination treatment is an effective way to treat large accumulations of sand.

Reference: “Comparison of the effects of enteral psyllium, magnesium sulphate and their combination for removal of sand from the large colon of horses,” Veterinary Journal, December 2014

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #449, February 2015. 

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