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


Grain Overload, Horse Got into Feed Room


This commonly happens when a feed room door is left open and a horse gains access to grain stores. Consumption of large quantities of high starch grain can have drastic consequences to a horse's intestinal health, causing digestive upset, abdominal pain (colic), and diarrhea. The most notable consequence of this occurrence is the development of laminitis (founder), which might only become evident days later.

Often, horses do not consume enough high-starch grain in these episodes to cause problems. Nevertheless, you should take this problem very seriously. Time is of the essence. Prompt and aggressive treatment by your vet is your best chance to avoid or lessen the consequences.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

your role


What To Do

Do your best to determine what feeds your horse consumed, and the amounts and time that you think the horse consumed it. Evaluate your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to intestinal sounds, heart rate and rectal temperature. Consider the horse's general attitude and appetite. Assess for lameness at the walk and for digital pulse or heat in the feet. Share your findings with your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not wait and see if the horse develops a problem. Once the signs of laminitis start, treatment becomes more difficult and costly.

your vet's role

Most vets will consider what the horse has consumed and the horse's physical state and use that information to determine how aggressive to be in treatment. Usually vets make an attempt to remove feed from the stomach with a stomach tube, but often the feed has already passed downstream. Oral medications may be given to reduce the absorption of toxins from the intestine. Anti-inflammatories and other medications may also be given to reduce the inflammatory effects of the toxins.

The greatest concerns in cases of grain overload are colic and laminitis. Different vets may choose different protocols to reduce the likelihood of the development of laminitis.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When do you think the horse ingested the grain?
  • What type of grain and how much did the horse eat?
  • What is the horse's attitude?
  • What is the horse doing now?
  • Have you given any medications to the horse?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP