What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Manure Appears to Have Foreign Material in It


Generally, horses are discriminating eaters. They rarely swallow foreign material like baling twine, string, wire, plastic, or other debris. Foals do so more commonly than adults. Horses that are bored and those that do not have access to adequate roughage (long-stem hay or grazing) are more likely to chew and swallow foreign material.

Usually this material passes through the intestinal tract without causing problems. In rare cases, however, it can cause intestinal obstruction.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you notice signs of colic, along with this sign.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • Unless you notice signs suggesting colic or other underlying disorder.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

If you find foreign material in the manure of an otherwise well-seeming horse, take it as a warning to prevent access to foreign material in the future. Assess other manure piles for similar material. Evaluate their stall and turnout, and remove all debris that they may ingest.

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), taking note of heart rate, rectal temperature, attitude and appetite.

Monitor the horse for signs of abdominal pain (colic), depression, loss of appetite or any other abnormality. These are the signs most likely to be shown by a horse that has intestinal obstruction.

Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

your vet's role

When one of my clients tell me that they notice foreign material in their horse's manure, I tell them to watch for signs of colic or other abnormalities. If they notice signs of colic or other abnormalities, I suggest that I promptly evaluate the horse.

Also, I usually tell them to double check their management to minimize the likelihood of ingestion of foreign material in the future.

Sometimes I recommend that they save a sample of the manure for me to evaluate and/or take a photo of the manure and send it to me. If they are not sure what the foreign material is, I sometimes evaluate it myself and possibly look at it under a microscope.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What does the horse's manure look like?
  • Do you notice any other problems with the horse?
  • Do you notice any signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • Can you send a photo?
  • Can you bring in a sample of manure?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Does the horse have a history of episodes of colic?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

Less Common
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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP