The diagnostic tools available to a veterinarian looking for the cause of abdominal pain in a horse are inadequate. The options are rectal examinations, endoscopy of some areas of the stomach, and ultrasound, which is limited at best even if there’s someone in the area able to do that. However, a study performed in Japan may change that.
The small intestine, which is the segment between the stomach and the large intestine, is the least accessible to examination. Equine stomach scopes aren’t long enough to reach past the stomach.
Human medicine can use a technique called capsule endoscopy, where a tiny camera, radio transmitter and light source is swallowed and transmits images of the small intestine to a small receiver worn on the surface of the body.
Japanese veterinarians have studied its usefulness in horses. Using human capsule-endoscopy equipment, they placed it directly in the horse’s esophagus and flushed it into the stomach with water. The unit showed detailed pictures of the small intestinal lining until it reached the end of the small bowel, where a larger diameter resulted in the pictures being too dark.
Small intestinal ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, Clostridial infection and damage from tapeworms are among the important small-intestine disorders that can strike horses.
Until now, many horses have ended up with surgery just so the veterinarian could attempt to make a diagnosis. If capsule endoscopy becomes available to veterinarians, your horse may have a detailed, pain-free and risk-free examination of the small intestine.