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


Manure, Not Passing Enough


Many factors affect the amount of manure production in horses. Generally, in a 24-hour period a horse will usually produce a predictable amount of manure, but manure production waxes and wanes. That said, anything obstructing the lower intestine (colon) can cause reduced manure production. If horses are ill for any other reason, they will often produce less manure than usual.

This observation often occurs as a result of a feed change, and can be associated with certain kinds of conditions that cause abdominal pain (colic). In some cases, it results from an intestinal blockage.

Keep in mind that horses that do not eat for a period of time will have a delay in their passage of manure.

  • Code Red

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

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
    • If the problem persists over 24 hours.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • To discuss your equine's general health and management.
    • Even if the horse seems normal, it is best to start the conversation.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to gut sounds, appetite and attitude, heart rate, gum color, heart rate and hydration by skin pinch. If your horse seems otherwise normal and hungry, you may simply want to discuss this finding with your vet.

Taken alone with no other sign of illness or abnormalities, the observation should not be cause for worry but it is worth monitoring. If your horse suddenly appears to not produce as much manure as usual, monitor them and watch for signs of illness or abdominal pain (colic).

However, if your horse is exhibiting any other signs of illness or you have other concern, talk to your vet about evaluating the horse. When the horse does finally pass manure, take note of it's appearance. In cases of impaction, in which the manure stayed in the same place within the colon longer than normal, you may notice strands or a film of mucus on the manure.

your vet's role

If this is the only problem, and the horse seems otherwise normal, your vet may not evaluate the horse. If they do, they do a complete physical to assess general health. They try to rule our impaction of the lower gastro-intestinal tract using rectal exam and other diagnostics.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How much manure has the horse passed over the last 24 hours?
  • What does the horse's manure look like?
  • Does the manure currently look different than usual for your horse?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Do you notice any signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • Has the feed or management changed recently?
  • Has the horse been lying down?
  • Is the horse eating, drinking and behaving normally otherwise?
  • Does your horse have a history of colic?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP