Stuart research funds generating dividends for veterinary medicine

Colic remains the leading killer of horses, and though well-studied in recent years, much about the disorder remains enigmatic.

Colic involves blockages or twists of the horses gut, according to Nathaniel White, the Theodora Ayer Randolph Professor of Equine Surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va.

When a horse has colic, veterinarians generally administer analgesics to relieve intestinal discomfort and laxatives like mineral oil to help eliminate the blockage. Some horses require surgery, and about six to seven percent of horses that have colic will die.

But thanks to research funded by grants to Virginia Tech from the estate of the late Patricia Stuart, researchers at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center are making some important discoveries about what causes colic and finding better ways to treat it.

Researchers know that hydration of the horse and its intestine is related to colic, and that hydration can be affected by diet. But in a significant finding supported by the Stuart funding, White and colleagues have determined that dietary grain affects colonic hydration.

When you switch feeding from hay only to hay and grain, water content decreases significantly, said White, who is regarded as one of the professions leading colic researchers. These are significant changes that we believe are important to gut function. I consider this to be a major finding.

White believes that when grain replaces the forage amount, dietary fiber is reduced and because water binds to fiber water in the colon is decreased when feeding grain.

This work is resetting the stage for what will be the next step in finding the relationship between diet and colic, he added.

In a related part of the work, researchers determined that the most effective laxative for increasing the water content of the colon is the rapid oral administration of an electrolyte solution which is similar to the e

Contact: Dr. Nathaniel White
Virginia Tech

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