Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

No treatment is the best treatment for diarrhea in young foals, study suggests

Date:
August 5, 2011
Source:
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Summary:
As (human) mothers will be all too ready to confirm, many young animals develop diarrhea shortly after birth. Diarrhoea in young calves is known to be caused by incorrect feeding management or by bacteria or viruses but this does not seem to be the case with diarrhea in young foals. Instead, it has been proposed that foals ‘automatically’ develop diarrhea around the time their mothers’ estrous cycle restarts after giving birth. This theory has now been refuted. The new results show that the intestinal flora of foals undergoes a major switch within the first two weeks of life; the change seems to be directly responsible for diarrhea.

Young foal.
Credit: Vetmeduni Vienna

As (human) mothers will be all too ready to confirm, many young animals develop diarrhea shortly after birth. diarrhea in young calves is known to be caused by incorrect feeding management or by bacteria or viruses but this does not seem to be the case with diarrhea in young foals. Instead, it has been proposed that foals 'automatically' develop diarrhea around the time their mothers' oestrous cycle restarts after giving birth. This theory has now been refuted by the team of Christine Aurich at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. The new results show that the intestinal flora of foals undergoes a major switch within the first two weeks of life; the change seems to be directly responsible for diarrhea.

The work is published in the current issue of the journal Veterinary Microbiology.

Horse-breeders are used to the fact that most new-born foals suffer from diarrhea. Many methods have been suggested to avoid the problem, including supplementing the mothers' diets with ß-carotene, which is known to be helpful in preventing diarrhea in young calves. However, Juliane Kuhl in the group of Christine Aurich at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna has now shown that this food supplement has no real effect on the incidence of diarrhea in foals.

Kuhl, Aurich and their collaborators were interested in learning what causes the condition and how it can be treated. They thus examined the bacteria in the feces of foals and their mothers, as well as the measuring the levels of antibodies (γ-globulins) in the animals' blood. Foals are born with very low concentrations of antibodies, i.e. without functional immune systems. However, γ-globulins are transferred to the foal with the mothers' milk for a few hours after birth. As foals can synthesize the antibodies in sufficient amounts only after they are about four weeks of age, adequate milk intake immediately after birth is essential -- which argues strongly against the practice of limiting the time foals are allowed to suckle their mothers, another method that has been proposed to help prevent diarrhea. If foals take up sufficient amounts of their mothers' first milk (colostrum), there is no period in the horses' early development where the levels of γ-globulins are dramatically reduced. And as Kuhl was able to show that foals with low γ-globulin levels did not develop diarrhea more often than those with much higher levels, the incidence of diarrhea cannot be related to a weakened immune system.

The bacteria in the feces give a good indication of the animals' intestinal flora, which is difficult to monitor directly. The scientists found little change over time in the nature of bacteria in the mothers' feces, although they did observe dramatic differences in the bacteria in the foals' feces. Foals are born with very low amounts of bacteria in their intestines but are colonized by E. coli within the first day of their lives. In contrast, the number of foals with Enterococcus remains low until about ten days following birth, after which these bacteria can be detected in the majority of animals. Other bacteria such as Streptococcus and Staphylococcus arrive even later, between two and four weeks after birth, by which time the foals' intestinal flora is essentially indistinguishable from that of their mothers.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the changes in the bacterial flora closely parallel the development of diarrhea. Kuhl is careful to note that "we have not yet shown that diarrhea results directly from the switch in intestinal bacteria, although our data make it seem very likely that this is the case."

The implications of the conclusion are that the horse is essentially predisposed to develop diarrhea at a very young age. The horse is thus the only domestic animal where most young animals suffer from non-infectious diarrhea. As the condition clears up fairly quickly without the need for antibiotic treatment, food withdrawal or food supplements such as ß-carotene, breeders should simply accept that many of their animals will suffer from the condition. Kuhl is happy to concede that "our result might not be exactly what horse-breeders or the feed industry hoped to hear. Not all foals develop diarrhea but the vast majority of them do -- and do not suffer any long-term consequences from it."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Juliane Kuhl, Nora Winterhoff, Manuela Wulf, Florian J. Schweigert, Ilse Schwendenwein, Rupert M. Bruckmaier, Jörg E. Aurich, Peter Kutzer, Christine Aurich. Changes in faecal bacteria and metabolic parameters in foals during the first six weeks of life. Veterinary Microbiology, 2011; 151 (3-4): 321 DOI: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2011.03.017

Cite This Page:

Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "No treatment is the best treatment for diarrhea in young foals, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110805082949.htm>.
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. (2011, August 5). No treatment is the best treatment for diarrhea in young foals, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110805082949.htm
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "No treatment is the best treatment for diarrhea in young foals, study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110805082949.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) — We all know that it is important to eat our fruits and vegetables but do you know which ones are the best for you? Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) — It took Houston firefighters more than an hour to free a puppy who got its head stuck in a tire. (Aug. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) — A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Activists Urge NYC Mayor to Ban Carriage Horses

Activists Urge NYC Mayor to Ban Carriage Horses

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) — A group of New Yorkers are putting Mayor Bill de Blasio on notice for what they say is reneging on his campaign promise to ban carriage horses. They rallied Tuesday near the mayor's Gracie Mansion home. (Aug. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins