Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Stomach Impaction

Synonyms: Gastric Impaction

The equine stomach is relatively small, and only has about a 3 to 4 gallon capacity. Stomach impaction is a uncommon condition in which the stomach becomes tightly packed with feed and cannot empty. It has been associated with certain feed types, including haylage.

Signs of abdominal pain (colic) are usually seen shortly after a meal, and can be very severe in some cases. In my experience, this is one of the more painful intestinal conditions.

This condition can be surprisingly difficult to diagnose. Rarely can a vet feel the back part of a hugely enlarged stomach on rectal exam.

Once diagnosed, often it is difficult to break down the obstruction using a stomach tube. Some vets give Coca Cola® orally via a stomach tube, to help break down the obstruction. I do not know why this works, but I have had some success with it too.

In some cases, horses are rushed to surgery. Although the equine stomach is not accessible via the typical approach used in colic surgery, saline and laxatives are injected through the stomach wall into the impaction. The impaction is then gently massaged through the stomach wall, helping to break down the impaction.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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