Keeping your Horse Sand Colic Free

We will be moving our horses (9 yr G Paint & 6 yr G Quarter Horse) to our property in a little over a month. We will have a new pasture for them to stay in with a horsewire fence. Our pasture is mostly sandy type dirt and we have been told that sandy area can cause a sand colic in horses. Is there a supplement we can buy and if so, which one is best? We have been told a “Sand Blaster” type supplement should be used. Thank you. EG, Texas

What is the best and most cost effective way to sand your horses? I have heard that metamucil is good but, I would rather avoid using it. I use Fiberpsyll and that is the cheapest physillium product I have found so far. KM, Florida

I noticed a disclaimer on psyllium used for gut sand reduction stating that no scientific research has been done on its use. Why not? DG, California

Dear Sand Colic Question Writers,

DG, I’m not sure what disclaimer you’re looking at. I’ve looked at all the labels of all the psyllium products for horses I could find (whether we sold them or not) and couldn’t find one. Do you mean this statement?

Safe use in pregnant animals or animals intended for breeding has not been proven.

If so, that’s a caution that the NASC requires all of its members to put on all their supplements, unless research on every single ingredient in the product has been done in pregnant mares and breeding stallions, which is unlikely.

While there is research on the use of psyllium in horses, to be honest with you, the NASC advises its members to be careful about conducting research and sharing it. That’s because the FDA doesn’t want supplement companies using a single research project to make drug-type claims about over-the-counter products that haven’t undergone the lengthy, expensive and rigorous safety and efficacy testing they require before granting FDA approval (prescription products, dewormers, etc.) So even if a supplement company pays to have research conducted on its product and “proves” it treats a disease, the company still can’t make a drug claim or really even use the research in its marketing. That’s one of the reasons you don’t see a lot of research on supplements.

As I said though, some research has been performed on the use of psyllium for reducing sand (and therefore sand colic and sand diarrhea) in horses. These papers all show a clear benefit:

Evacuation of sand from the equine intestine with mineral oil, with and without psyllium. (2008)

Fecal sand clearance is enhanced with a product combining probiotics, prebiotics and psyllium in clinically normal horses. (2007)

Abdominal radiography in monitoring the resolution of sand accumulations from the large colon of horses treated medically. (2001)

Diarrhea associated with sand in the gastrointestinal tract of horses. (1988)

One study, performed by my alma mater the University of Illinois, did not show this benefit but researchers now suspect the study may not have been set up appropriately:

Failure of psyllium mucilloid to hasten evaluation of sand from the equine large intestine. (1998)

I encourage all of you to read my article on sand colic, as feeding psyllium is only a part of keeping your horse sand-free. Other advice includes not feeding them on the ground, only allowing grazing in pastures with solid plant growth, and feeding before turnout.

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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3 comments on “Keeping your Horse Sand Colic Free
  1. we give our horses bran about a half cup with there oats, atleast once a week, or every 3 days, depending, and we are in a very deserty, area. for 4yrs. now we have never had a problem with sand colic! an old farmer told us to get it at the feed store and that is what we use.

  2. Jean Coffman says:

    Our vet had recommended Wheat Bran and Mineral oil treatment if we have any issues. We live in a sandy area also. I give my horse Wheat Bran in with his grain at least once a week. Apparently, Psyllium has been proven medically that it will not help control sand colic.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Jean, we do not recommend feeding wheat bran and mineral oil as a method of fecal sand removal for two reason reasons:

      1) Feeding psyllium is actually the only method of fecal sand removal that is supported by research (we know of no research that supports the use of wheat bran or mineral oil). Here are references to the scientific research studies that support psyllium:

      Evacuation of sand from the equine intestine with mineral oil, with and without psyllium. (2008)

      Fecal sand clearance is enhanced with a product combining probiotics, prebiotics and psyllium in clinically normal horses. (2007)

      Abdominal radiography in monitoring the resolution of sand accumulations from the large colon of horses treated medically. (2001)

      Diarrhea associated with sand in the gastrointestinal tract of horses. (1988)

      2) Additionally, we don’t recommend regularly feeding wheat bran in general, has an inverted calcium to phosphorous ratio, meaning the phosphorus content of wheat bran is higher than the calcium content, which unbalances the diet and can cause serious bone abnormalities.

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