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The Excretory System of a Horse

i horse image by Oleg Tarasov from Fotolia.com

If you're a horse owner, you might be a bit obsessed with your horse's manure. That's because the condition of the droppings tells you a lot about the health of your animal. You might pay less attention to urine, although that's also an crucial aspect of your horse's excretory system. It's important to learn what the normal output and appearance of your horse's pee and poop are, so you quickly recognize any changes.

Gastrointestinal System

Your horse's gastrointestinal system begins at his mouth and ends at his anus. After his teeth chew his roughage or grain, the food heads down the esophagus to his stomach. Equine stomachs are relatively small, capable of holding only a few gallons. Material then passes into the small intestine, where proteins, fats and glucose are absorbed. Fibrous materials head to the cecum and large colon, where minerals and vitamins are absorbed and good bacteria break down fiber for use by the horse's body. Anything undigested ends up in the horse's small colon, where it becomes those round turds of manure excreted through the anus.


If your horse refuses to eat, hasn't passed manure, is biting at his sides, constantly pawing or otherwise looking poorly, he's likely colicing. That's a red-alert veterinary emergency. Your vet must figure out what part of his gastrointestinal system is involved. If it's a gas colic or an impaction, your vet might be able to treat it at your farm. If your horse doesn't respond relatively quickly by passing manure, he could have a twisted intestine or another issue that only surgery can fix. If that's the case, you'll have to bring him to a veterinary hospital. It's an expensive proposition with a long recovery period, if the surgery is successful.

Urinary Tract

Your horse's two kidneys lie on either side of his spine, behind the area in which you place the saddle. These vital organs are well protected by fat, muscle and bone. In addition to filtering waste products, the kidneys help regulate blood pressure and aid in the production of red blood cells. Waste products pass from the kidneys through the ureters, tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder. The horse excretes urine through the urethra.

Kidney Disease

Unlike colic, kidney disease is fairly rare in horses. If your horse does suffer from kidney disease, you might not notice any signs until it is quite far along. Unexplained weight loss can result from kidney disease. Acute renal failure can be triggered by toxin exposure, serious dehydration, massive blood loss, diarrhea and that old nemesis, colic. If treated in time, in many cases acute renal failure can be reversed. Treatments include intravenous fluids, electrolytes and feeding a low-protein diet that doesn't tax the kidneys.