All horses in Florida eat sand, and while it’s not always intentional, it happens. Horses will inevitably consume a certain amount of sand while grazing on sandy soil or eating feed from the ground.
Sand accumulation within the intestine reduces intestinal movement, inhibits digestion of feed and can lead to blockage of the intestines causing an impaction. Sand may also irritate the intestines as it moves through the gastrointestinal tract causing diarrhea, colic and if persistent may cause weight loss. Different horses tolerate varying quantities of sand in their intestines before displaying any adverse effects.
There are management techniques that can help minimize the amount of sand that your horse consumes and hopefully avoid some of the adverse effects of sand consumption.
While lush pastures are a dream of horse owners, it is not often a reality. To minimize sand ingestion, avoid over-grazing where possible and use rubber floor matting beneath feeders or hay-racks to catch any spilled feed or hay. Don’t forget to sweep the mat free of sand before feeding! Horses get hungry, and hungry horses eat more sand while foraging. Make sure your horse is getting enough hay throughout the year to keep them satisfied.
The supplement psyllium helps to clear sand from the gut. It is given for one week every month and helps bind sand in your horse’s gut so it can be passed out. There are a variety of psyllium products available at your local feed stores. Remember to always consult your veterinarian before embarking on major diet changes for your horse.
column by DR. KATIE HENNESSY
BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. She completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.