July1 , 2022

Diarrhoea and constipation in Farm Animals



Diarrhoea and constipation in Farm Animals

When an animal passes watery droppings many times a day it has diarrhoea.


Animals with diarrhoea lose water and salt from their bodies. They become weak, thin and can die. It is common in young animals and kills many.


Constipation occurs when the animal cannot defecate or it passes droppings with difficulty.

Recognising diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is a condition in which animals pass watery droppings (faeces) many times a day. The droppings are loose, runny and smelly and are a different colour from normal. Droppings can become dark green, dark brown or reddish black in colour because of blood in it. In some cases, e.g. rinderpest, the animal has diarrhoea which has a very bad smell.

Causes of diarrhoea

Diarrhoea may continue for one or two days and then stop. This type of diarrhoea is caused by:

· The wrong feed was given to the animal.
· A sudden change in the animal’s feed.
· Feeding silage can sometimes cause diarrhoea.
· Feed was old, rotting or fermenting.
· Diarrhoea can be caused by germs (a high body temperature may occur).
· Infection with parasites can cause diarrhoea which sometimes contains blood.

Diarrhoea in ruminants

Diarrhoea in cattle, sheep, goats and buffaloes can be caused by:

· Germs and internal parasites, especially in young animals on pasture.
· Germs infecting the intestines of young animals (body temperature not usually elevated).
· Overfeeding calves with poor quality powdered milk
If cattle have diarrhoea and also have mouth lesions (not normal) you must ask your veterinarian for advice.

Diarrhoea in sheep and goats can result from:

· Infection with a germ (body temperature may be elevated).
· Internal parasites in young animals on pasture.
Young animals can show diarrhoea after weaning.

Diarrhoea in horses

This can be caused by:

· Infection with germs (body temperature usually is elevated).
· Antibiotics or drugs which were given for another problem.
· Stress conditions (animal is not well kept and is disturbed) can result in diarrhoea.
· A one week old foal may develop diarrhoea when its mother comes into heat (oestrus).
Diarrhoea in pigs

· Diarrhoea in the pig can be caused by infection with germs (body temperature may be elevated) and internal parasites.
Diarrhoea in camels

This can be the result of:

· Too much fresh green feed causing green diarrhoea.
· Parasites infecting the animal causing dark brown or dark red diarrhoea.
· Male camels in the rut can have diarrhoea.
Diarrhoea in chickens and ducks

· White diarrhoea disease of chickens is caused by a germ (bacteria) which passes from the mother to her young. In adult birds it causes greenish-brown diarrhoea but in the young bird the diarrhoea is white in colour.
· Diarrhoea containing blood can be caused by the small parasites called coccidia which infect the gut.

Diarrhoea in rabbits

The rabbit’s droppings should be separate, round, fairly firm and greyish brown in colour. Any change is a sign of a health problem. Diarrhoea can be caused by:

· Changing the feed from dry to green feed.
· Bad feed, either too wet, too cold or contaminated with chemicals.
· Disease caused by germs (body temperature will usually be elevated).
· Coccidia can cause diarrhoea in young animals.

Diarrhoea accompanied by fever is caused by germs. If the diarrhoea continues for more than two days and the body temperature has gone up you should ask your veterinarian for help. The animal may be treated with antibiotics or by sulpha drugs

Diarrhoea will cause the animal to lose water and salts and if this is allowed to continue the animal can die. If you cannot get veterinary help you can give the animal a home treatment of rehydration fluid. To make rehydration fluid mix six teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt with 1 litre of clean, warm water. Give this as a drench (500 ml for sheep or goats) four times a day for 3 days. Larger animals require more fluid, 5% of body weight 2 times per day.


Constipated animals cannot defecate or they pass very hard droppings with difficulty. The animal with constipation is easy to spot.

Constipation is treated by giving an enema. Warm soapy water is injected into the rectum. Epsom salts or commercially produced oils can be given by mouth to relieve constipation.

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