Conditions or ailments that are the cause of a problem that you see - your observation.

Your vet may diagnose

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.

my vet's role


Fair to good with correct diagnosis and treatment.

If the diagnosis is not made or treatment is not effective, the stomach can rupture.

my role


I might observe

You might make these observations when a horse has this condition.

Very Common
Less Common
more observations

Questions To Ask Your Vet:
  • Did I contribute to this condition in the way that I feed my horse?
  • Is there some underlying stomach dysfunction that causes this?

Possible change in feeding and management.

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP