**Warning**: The nature of this article is pretty nasty. Proceed with caution (and not before you eat a meal!).
You’ve probably heard about a salmonella outbreak at some point before, maybe on the news, or maybe on recall signs on empty shelves at grocery or pet feed stores.
If you’re anything like me, just saying the word salmonella makes your stomach squirm a little. And for me, it’s not just because of the terrible gastrointestinal symptoms, but rather the thought that salmonella is a microscopic organism that can hide in plain sight.
What is Horse Salmonella?
Aside from food sources, salmonella can live in the equine gastrointestinal system and the bacteria is shed in the feces intermittently. When that fecal matter contaminates a food source (such as horse feed), salmonella’s life cycle continues.
Under a microscope salmonella looks like tiny, hairy pills coated with long flagella that are used to swim around and invade the host’s GI tract (and beyond). Gross doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
For many reasons, salmonella poisoning is feared by many and is more common than you may think (even in adult horses!). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1.35 million salmonella infections each year in the U.S., the majority of which come from food-borne transmission (1). It can also easily and readily transmit from horse to human or vice versa.
How Does a Horse Get Salmonella?
Fun fact: the bacteria was actually named after a veterinary surgeon, Daniel Elmer Salmon, who found it to be a major cause of diarrhea in infected livestock. The most common source of salmonella poisoning is contaminated food. And animals, particularly horses and dogs, have been known to participate in coprophagic (eating feces) indulgence on occasion, creating a direct passage for the bacteria to reach their GI tracts.
When symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fever, lethargy, chills and abdominal pain present, salmonella is a commonly tested culprit.
Symptoms of Salmonella in Horses and Dogs
In affected horses with salmonellosis, mild colic symptoms, dehydration, fever, and diarrhea are typical, but if you’re really unlucky, projectile terrible smelling diarrhea may occur too.
In dogs, similar clinical signs can occur, but they also have the luxury of being able to vomit which they occasionally do when infected. Abortion, septicemia, enteritis and even pneumonia are other signatures of advanced salmonellosis. Neutropenia (a low neutrophil count) indicates a prevalent condition.
Like humans, young and geriatric animals with a compromised immune system are more at risk for developing advanced salmonellosis that can have life-threatening complications.
How is Salmonella Treated in Horses and Pets?
Antibiotics and supportive care should be used to treat infected horses and dogs with salmonella that has become systemic or escalated to a septicemic disease. There is controversy surrounding the use of oral antibiotics for initial stages of intestinal salmonella poisoning or asymptomatic infection (I’m sure you’ve heard some about the antibiotic resistance dilemma) (2).
Treatment of an affected horse or dog involves a delicate balance of seeking to completely obliterate intestinal salmonella bacteria and not wanting to harm preexisting good bacteria that are essential for gut function. This is where supportive care in early stages becomes very important.
Maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance is vital, as is supporting gastrointestinal homeostasis. To achieve this delicate balance there are a plethora of products and supplements aimed towards remedying GI upset, but not all are created equal.
What is the Best Treatment for Salmonella?
Research regarding the gastrointestinal microbiome is still relatively new, limited in scope, and the high number of salmonella strains make it difficult to determine which modalities are most beneficial.
Based on our best current understanding of the GI system in horses and dogs, here’s a brief overview of some supportive measures that can promote equine (and canine) GI health and restore homeostasis during health upsets:
- Probiotics: helps restore the microbiome balance by replenishing good gut bacteria
- Zeolite and bentonite clay: source of vital minerals necessary for metabolism and assists in detoxification of the gut through its interactions with toxins in the GI tract
- L-Glutamine: essential amino acid for intestinal tissues and can help boost immune function.
- Prebiotics, which essentially provide fuel for probiotics
- High-Powered Probiotics (Saccharomyces boulardii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae)
- Smectite Clay (bentonite clay is a type of smectite clay
If your horse or dog is dealing with a nasty bacterial infection, don’t wait too long before turning to the best FullBucket solution! Protect your companions with daily GI care for horses and dogs, and turn to ADD in times of emergency.