Free faecal liquid (FFL) is not the same as diarrhoea. Unlike diarrhoea, where horses pass consistently loose faeces, in FFL they pass solid droppings, followed or preceded by a separate liquid phase.
are usually otherwise healthy, but the liquid contaminates the hind legs and
tail, and may lead to inflammation of the skin and attract flies.
The underlying cause is of FFL not known, although many possible factors have been suggested, such as:
- Nutritional -(eg feeding alfalfa hay, haylage or silage,
drinking very cold water,
- Stress (social – being at the bottom of the “pecking order”, physical – such as transport)
- Inflammation of the gastro-intestinal tract, including Intestinal parasites
- Poor dental health
A study to investigate some of these factors has been conducted at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, in Uppsala. Katrin Lindroth and colleagues used a web-based survey to look into the occurrence of FFL in Sweden and Norway, particularly in horses fed wrapped forages.
The survey included 339 horses with FFL and encompassed a wide range of different breeds, ages, disciplines, coat colours, housing systems and feeding strategies.
Owners were asked if a change in diet influenced the occurrence of FFL.
Replies showed that:
- 58% of owners reported diminished signs of FFL in their horses when changing from wrapped forages to hay;
- 46% reported diminished signs of FFL when changing from wrapped forages to pasture;
- 17% reported diminished signs of FFL when changing from any type of forage batch to any other forage.
Interestingly the study also found that horses with FFL were reported to have a higher incidence of a previous history of colic compared to reports from other horse populations.
A report of the work has been published in the journal Animals (Basel).
The authors conclude: “Many, but not all horses in this study were reported to show less separation of solid and liquid phases in their faeces when changing from wrapped forages to hay, pasture or another batch of wrapped forage. “
They suggest that “further studies should include detailed data on individual horse factors including gastrointestinal diseases as well as feeding strategies, in order to increase the chance of finding causes of FFL.”
For more details, see:
Differential Defecation of Solid and Liquid Phases in Horses-A Descriptive Survey
Katrin M Lindroth, Astrid Johansen, Viveca Båverud, Johan Dicksved, Jan Erik Lindberg, Cecilia E Müller
Animals (Basel). 2020 Jan 1;10(1):76.