Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Hay or Pot Belly, Pendulous Abdomen

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If you notice signs of colic, along with this sign.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • To discuss your equine's general health and management.

When viewing your horse from behind, you might notice a “hay belly,” a pear shape to the abdominal profile. It can indicate lack of fitness, poor nutrition, over-nutrition, parasitism or can be associated with a variety of chronic diseases. Genetics also plays a large role in a horse’s general shape.

Older horses that do not get adequate exercise, or those with certain conditions may lose muscle along the top-line and develop weaker abdominal muscles. These horses may have a pendulous belly but are actually underweight. Mares that have had many foals also have a sagging, pear shaped belly. In younger horses, this observation may also be a sign of a parasite load (worms) and certain other chronic diseases.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Look at and feel the top-line and rib cage to assess body condition. Tap on the highest part of the distended belly with your finger tip. Is it tight like a drum (gas) or soft? Is your horse exhibiting other signs of illness or abdominal pain (colic)? Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will consider whether this appearance of distention is normal or not. If accompanied by other abnormalities, distention usually indicates obstruction or other dysfunction of the intestine.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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