Study: What is the connection between Salmonella and colic in horses?

Colic and Salmonella make an icky – and infectious – pair.

That’s why researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center took a look at the relationship between the two, specifically the link between colic and shedding of Salmonella, reports

In horses, colic is abdominal pain that can be caused by a variety of underlying factors. It typically requires medical attention and, depending on the root cause, may necessitate surgery according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.

Horses recovering from surgery, such as to alleviate colic, are more susceptible to other illnesses than healthy animals. As such, most hospitals conduct tests to see if a horse is shedding Salmonella (making it contagious to other animals). Although most horses shedding Salmonella show signs of salmonellosis, such as diarrhea and fever, about 1 to 2 percent have no clinical symptoms. Couple that with the length of time it takes to get the test results back, and vets lose precious time putting proper biosecurity measures against Salmonella in place, according to the article.

The study found that horses with Salmonella, but not showing clinical symptoms, usually were patients who had colic surgery. Their colic also most often stemmed from inflammation rather than impaction, according to the article.

The researchers also found other conditions that indicated animals that were more likely to shed Salmonella:

  • Horses that had high heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Horses that had gastrointestinal reflux
  • Horses that were lethargic for at least a day while in the hospital
  • Arabian and Warmblood breeds were more likely to shed Salmonella than Thoroughbreds

So why does all of this matter? The faster vets can identify a biosecurity threat, such as Salmonella, the faster they can put additional biosecurity measures in place.

“The more rapidly one can identify horses likely to shed, the more effectively one can limit environmental contamination and the risk of subsequent transmission to other patients,” researcher Dr. Barbara Dallap-Schaer told “From this study, it is probably safe to say that Salmonella shedding can be associated with more serious cases of colic.”

To read the full article from, click here.

To read the abstract from the study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, click here.

To read previous Neogen blog posts about biosecurity, click here.

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