Infectious Diarrhea in Foals (Part 2 of 3)
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Infectious Diarrhea in Foals (Part 2 of 3)

November 19, 2019


In this, the second of our three-part series,
I will discuss some of the infectious causes of diarrhea. There are many infectious causes of diarrhea. Among these are viral and bacterial infections. Bacteria may cause diarrhea through direct
effects in the intestine or as a result of septicemia, which is the presence of infection
in the bloodstream. Foals can get a blood infection from navel
ill or bacteria that go through the gut lining soon after birth, and the resulting systemic infection creates diarrhea along with other clinical signs. Foals that get infected with Salmonella during
the first week of life tend to get it from the mare. Up to 10% of adult horses have salmonella
in the gastrointestinal tract and may pass organisms in their manure. The stress of foaling often induces shedding
of the bacteria with salmonella organisms then being present around the udder and tail. In these situations, wrapping the tail and
cleaning the udder of the mare while making sure the foal gets good quality colostrum early
can dramatically reduce the incidence of disease. Two strains of Clostridial organisms have been
shown to affect foals: Clostridium perfringens and Clostridium difficile. Infection with Clostridium perfringens bacteria,
which survives as spores in the environment, can be very severe, with foals becoming seriously
ill in the first week of life. All foals get clostridial organisms colonizing
the gut; however, some strains of Clostridium perfringens produce toxins which cause gut
damage which then allows these toxins and bacteria to enter into the blood stream. Toxin-producing Clostridium difficile can
cause diarrhea in foals of any age. Healthy foals that get good colostrum can
still get Clostridium difficile infections in the first week of life. Affected foals may get severe bloody diarrhea. As this is a bacterium that may be present
in the environment, it is an infection that is difficult to prevent. Toxin-producing E. coli can cause diarrhea
but it is not as common a cause of diarrhea in foals as it is in calves. Rotavirus is a common cause of diarrhea in
foals. The source of infection is other foals or
mares that are shedding the virus and passing it in their manure. If a foal ingests the virus, it can cause
severe diarrhea, but it’s a more fluid-losing diarrhea that the bloody diarrhea you see
with salmonella or clostridia. Foals are less likely to die with Rotavirus
infection than with Salmonella or Clostridial infections but the fluid loss can be extreme. Coronavirus is being increasingly recognized
as a cause of diarrhea in foals and frequently occurs in combination with other viral and
bacterial infections. Thank you for watching. In the third and final video of this series, I will discuss strategies for prevention and control of diarrhea.

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