Gluten possible cause of horse bowel problems


Researchers in The Netherlands have identified gluten sensitivity as a potential cause of chronic inflammatory small bowel disease in sport horses.

The link was discovered by researchers at the Free University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University.

Chronic inflammatory small bowel disease has an increased prevalence in sport horses.

The disorder is associated with intermittent colic, weight loss, poor performance and anemia.

Chronic inflammatory small bowel disease seems to have a predominance in dressage horses, but its exact cause is unknown to date.

However, the researchers have now identified gluten sensitivity as a potential cause.

Gluten is a major compound in various cereals, in particular wheat, barley and rye. The gliadin fraction of the gluten is associated with Coeliac disease – gluten intolerance – in man.

Some horses fed a gluten-rich ration showed concurrent antibody responses as seen in celiac patients.

To test the pathogenic role of gluten, one sport horse with chronic inflammatory bowel disease and antibodies followed a gluten-free ration over six months. The researchers identified an improvement in both the villi – the tiny, finger-like projections that protrude from the epithelial lining of the intestinal wall – and blood antibody titers in this horse.

The development of a screening test aimed at identifying gluten-sensitivity in individual horses based on blood samples is currently in progress.

The findings of the research were published in the journal, “Veterinary Quarterly”.


The full study can be read here.

J.H. van der Kolk, L.A. van Putten, C.J. Mulder, G.C.M. Grinwis, M. Reijm, C.M. Butler, B.M.E. von Blomberg. Gluten-dependent antibodies in horses with inflammatory small bowel disease (ISBD). Veterinary Quarterly, 2012; : 1 DOI: 10.1080/01652176.2012.675636

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