Horses Unwilling or Unable to Eat: A Feeding System

Veterinarians at Oregon State University developed a method to get valuable calories into anorexic horses or those unable to eat normally. The process employs a couple of buckets, pelleted complete feed, water, tubing, and a bilge pump.

For horses with mouth or throat injuries, this method can be used to provide the horse's complete daily ration of both feed and water in about 15 minutes.

Shannon K. Reed, DVM, a surgery resident at Oregon State, explained the procedure at the 2006 AAEP Convention. A veterinarian weighs the horse's complete daily ration of feed, dumps it into a bucket, covers the mixture with enough water to make it crumbly, and allows about 30 minutes for soaking. The ration is divided into three to four small meal amounts and stored in plastic bags until mealtime to keep the mixture from losing water.

At feeding time, the veterinarian mixes this ration with one ration of water to create a thin gruel. He places large-bore tube (about 4 cm in diameter) into the gruel and connects it to the bilge pump, and then he inserts a nasogastric tube in the horse's stomach and connects that tube to the pump's outflow valve. The pump suctions the gruel out of the bucket and into the horse's stomach via the nasogastric tube.

Reed said that the technicians at her hospital insert the nasogastric tube in the morning and leave it in all day if it's well tolerated. With the tube replaced each day, this method only requires the mixing of the gruel and pumping a few times per day to provide complete nutrition to a horse that's unable to eat.

Reed called the method easy and affordable, and said that providing sufficient calories helps speed the healing process.



Get research and health news from the American Association of Equine Practitioners 2006 Convention in The Horse's AAEP 2006 Wrap-Up sponsored by OCD Equine. Files are available as free PDF downloads.

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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