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


Intestinal, Gut Sounds with Stethoscope Seem More Than Normal

Assess Gut or Intestinal Sounds


You listen to your horse's intestine with a stethoscope and there is almost constant rumbling and squeaking. Taken alone, this observation may not be cause for worry. Horses that are eating often have very loud and obvious intestinal sounds, while those that are fasted (no access to feed) have less motility.

In horses not showing colic signs, loud sounds can still indicate intestinal disturbance or upset. Loud intestinal sounds often also occur in conjunction with a feed change and can sometimes be heard in horses that have certain chronic intestinal conditions, like sand accumulation.

Excessive intestinal motility (hypermotility) is also a common finding in horses experiencing colic and generally in colicy horses is considered a more favorable sign than too little motility. Horses that are recovering from a transient bout of abdominal pain often have loud and rumbly intestinal sounds.

  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • If the horse seems normal other than this sign.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

First, be sure you know what NORMAL sounds like so you have something to compare to. When in doubt, compare to one of your other horses. Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to their heart rate, mucous membrane color and gut sounds. Listen carefully to all quadrants. Watch for signs of abdominal pain (colic). Assess the horse's appetite and attitude with handfuls of bland hay.

If the horse is otherwise normal and hungry, you may simply want to recheck the horse later to see if your finding has changed. If, however, you notice any other abnormalities, share your findings and concerns with your vet.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that loud intestinal sounds are abnormal. They may be normal for a horse that has recently eaten.

your vet's role

Vets often hear loud or excessive intestinal sounds in horses that have experienced colic, but this finding is usually more desirable than hearing less than normal sounds. In most cases, we simply take note of the excessive sounds and monitor them going forward, mostly looking at the clinical condition of the horse.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • Has there been a hay or feed change recently?
  • Could the horse have attained access to strange feeds, weeds or grazing?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • Do you notice any signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

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