9 things your horse’s urine says about his health

  • Do you look away when your horse urinate? You shouldn’t, because by knowing what is normal, you could spot a potential health problem quickly.

    Bear in mind that not all urine looks the same. Natural differences in colour, concentration and smell occur due to a number of factors. The following is considered normal urine:

    1. Pale in colour

    Horses with unlimited access to water will have more dilute, paler and less pungent urine.

    2. Dark yellow

    Restricted water intake or excessive sweating in hot weather can lead to more concentrated urine.

    3. Orange-red

    When naturally occurring Urocatechins (compounds) in horses’ urine is oxidised by light after being passed, it causes them to turn orange /red in colour. Sometimes this is mistaken for bloody urine.

    4. Cloudy

    Horses tend to absorb excessive calcium from the intestine and then eliminate it via urine, which gives it a cloudy/milky appearance.

    5. Foamy

    Urine is bubbly when first passed due to containing mucus, which acts as a lubricant to prevent calcium carbonate crystals from turning into stones.

    6. Smelly

    The more protein in the horse’s diet the more urea and ammonium — two breakdown products of protein — he will produce and excrete. So that explains the ammonia smell you might notice in the stable.

    What’s abnormal?

    Any changes in what is normal for your horse could point to problems, so it is worth monitoring your equine’s habits. Seek veterinary advice if you horse’s urine is:

    7. Little and often, or bloody

    Cystitis sufferers will pass small quantities of urine that may contain blood. This is a common urinary track condition more common in mares due to their shorter urethra allowing infection to gain access to the bladder more easily.

    8. Infrequent or uncomfortable

    Urolithiasis is the formation of kidney stones called calculi in the kidneys or, more commonly, the bladder. A total blockage can be fatal.

    9. Very dark in colour

    Urine in a horse suffering from rhabdomyolysis (azoturia/tying up) is very dark. This is due to a change in the permeability of muscle cell membrane, which causes large quantities of protein to be voided into the blood and then excreted through urine.

    Seasonal pasture myopathy also causes dark-coloured urine and is often fatal.

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