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Equine Research

Preliminary Results Of Breath Gas Study
Can high starch diets cause gas colic?

by S. Pratt, Dr. J. S. Weese, M. Anderson and A. Lowe

Dietary starch is poorly digested by the equine small intestine. Rapid fermentation of starch may lead to increased production of volatile fatty acids, methane and hydrogen. Excessive production of these compounds may cause digestive upset in the horse. Methane and hydrogen gasses are either expelled as flatus or absorbed and expired via the lungs. It is possible to collect and analyze the composition of these breath gasses.

This study was conducted to determine if dietary starch had an effect on breath gasses in the horse. Horses were fed either a high or low starch diet and breath gas samples were collected. Statistical analysis found no significant effect of diet on breath gas composition. However, there appeared to be a trend that the high starch diets lead to slightly higher gas
concentrations. The results also indicate a large variation between horses (even on the same diet) which may suggest that some horses may be more prone to fluctuations in gas production than others. Further research is required to investigate this possibility.
This study was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

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