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16-08-2011 | Article

Best treatment for diarrhea in foals is no treatment at all


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MedWire News: Young foals often develop diarrhea, but the best approach remains no treatment at all, research suggests.

The common condition clears up quickly, and there is no need for antibiotics, food withdrawal, or use of supplements such as beta-carotene, according to Juliane Kuhl (University of Veterinary Science, Vienna, Austria) and colleagues in the journal Veterinary Microbiology.

Breeders probably have to accept that many of their animals will suffer from the condition.

"Not all foals develop diarrhea but the vast majority of them do and do not suffer any long-term consequences from it," Kuhl stated in a press release accompanying the study.

Diarrhea typically develops in the first 2 weeks of life. The diarrhea is noninfectious and goes away in time, but little is known about why it occurs.

It has been previously suggested that the diarrhea coincides with postpartum estrous in foals' dams.

To evaluate the pathogenesis of the diarrhea, the researchers examined fecal bacteria in foals and their mothers, as well as measured serum insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) and γ-globulins for 6 weeks after birth.

In addition, the group studied the effects of beta-carotene supplementation (1000 mg/day) in 15 mares.

Diarrhea occurred in 92% of foals born to mares that received the supplement, as well as in 79% of foals born to 15 mares serving as controls and that received no beta-carotene.

Overall, diarrhea was not correlated with estrous, report the investigators.

The percentage of foals with cultures positive for Escherichia coli was low at birth but increased within the first day. The percentage of foals positive for Enterococcus sp. was low for the first 10 days after birth, and the number positive for Streptococcus sp. and Staphylococcus sp. was low for 2-4 weeks.

After 4 weeks, however, the bacterial flora of the foals resembled the bacterial flora of the mares, which remained stable over time.

While the changes in the bacterial flora closely parallel the development of diarrhea, the researchers point out that they have not shown that diarrhea is the direct result of the switch in intestinal flora, but it is possible this is the reason.

Concentrations of IGF1 were low at birth in foals born to mothers who received beta-carotene and those who did not, but increased after 1 day.

Similarly, concentrations of γ-globulins were low before the first intake of colostrum and highest on day 1.

Foals with low γ-globulin concentrations did not develop diarrhea more frequently than those with much higher levels, so these data suggest the diarrhea is not the result of a compromised immune system.

"In conclusion, neonatal diarrhea in foals does not coincide with postpartum estrous in their dams but with changes in intestinal bacteria and is not influenced by beta-carotene supplementation given to mares," state the researchers.

By MedWire Reporters