Sand in the Gut.

This is pretty serious.

My pony, Slick, has had sand in his gut for a month now.

At first, he was improving so we figured it was going to be OK – and we still think he will be OK.  BUT, getting rid of the sand isn’t as easy as I had hoped.


I had been out of town and when I came back, I noticed that Slick had runny manure all over his back legs and tail.


And then I felt his spine and realized that under his fluffy coat, he was losing weight.

I called the vet.

On the phone, the vet diagnosed it as ‘probably sand in his gut’.

But our dirt isn’t sandy?…


I told him that none of my horses have ever had sand in their gut nor even sand in their manure.

The vet told me to do the baggies test.

(That is where you scoop up a small piece of manure in a baggie, pour water on top, let it dissolve and then hold the baggie diagonally so that the sand will be heavier and form on the bottom corner.)

I saw no sand after the baggie test.

See… I knew it.  No sand.  We had no sand here.


When the vet arrived, he listened to Slick’s sides for quite a while.  He said he was listening for the sound of an ‘ocean wave’.

That ‘ocean wave’ sound is the sand moving about in the gut.

If a horse has diarrhea along with the ‘whooshing sound’, then he has a bad sand buildup because the solid manure cannot pass, only liquid.

The next phase is sand colic…

This is not good.

Slick has sand in his gut and diarrhea.

He was losing weight because the sand is heavy and painful in the gut – he didn’t want to eat much.



If a horse has sand in his gut, it is imperative to have the horse eat something sticky which will clear the sand out along with the sticky matter as it ventures through the equine GI tract.

Most vets recommend psyllium.

My old tyme vet recommends a week of tapioca pearls once a month…  I used to do this religiously but fell out of the habit.


(I don’t know if Chia is sticky enough… even though Chia becomes very gooey when wet, it clearly did not stop Slick from having sand buildup.)


My vet told me to get psyllium and feed it three times a day in very wet, soaked beet pulp pellets.

So, we ran out to Tractor Supply and got a $39 (tiny) bucket of psyllium.

I fed it for a week.

Slick got markedly better!

We still heard the ‘waves’ in his gut, but only on one side.

…then I ran out of the very expensive psyllium.

Instead of buying the small expensive tub again, I bought 50lbs online, thinking I would save money and give it to Slick and all of my other horses, too.

The 50lbs box arrived.

It looked and smelled just like the other product.

I fed it to Slick 3 times a day for two weeks.

He got worse.



Today I am going back out and getting another two tubs of the expensive psyllium product and I will let you know if he gets better.

If he does, then I know that not all psyllium products are alike.

I will also tell you what works and what doesn’t…


How could he have gotten worse when we had one side cleared?

Is he eating more sand?  Why?

From what I have read and what my vet has said for horses who do not live in a sandy environment but still have sand in the gut – the causes are unknown.   Maybe some horses eat dirt out of a need for minerals… maybe out of boredom…  No one knows.

I put out extra minerals and have given Slick free choice of 3 different types of hay.

The vet tried to put me at ease by saying that perhaps the new gut whoosh sound is actually a larger chunk of harder sand that may have become loose – which is actually good.


Don’t be like me… Ignorant.

‘I don’t have sand, I have dirt.’

It never occurred to me that he would ingest dirt and become sick.

Don’t do what I did because you don’t think sand colic applies to you.

It could happen – even on dirt.

Know the signs… diarrhea, loss of weight and a ‘whoosing’ sound in the gut.

Get some tapioca and feed it for a week, once a month.

Or, get some good psyllium and feed it as a precautionary measure occasionally.  My vet also said that he has head that Metamucil works just was well as psyllium (- but I’m not willing to try that until he is better for sure.)

As soon as I am done with my little test here, I will tell you which type works

…and which type – not so much.


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7 comments have been posted...

  1. Kelly

    A friend of mine in CA uses beet pulp and mineral oil. If she got a horse in (she used to do rescue), that horse was on beet pulp and mineral oil every day for 30 days. Now that she just has two horses, she feeds them the beet pulp regularly and only adds mineral oil once a week. She has had no colic issues.

  2. dawndi Post author

    Thank you for your concern! For me, I prefer Loomis Basin Veterinary hospital only because it is closer, they confer with Davis all the time and they are not a teaching hospital. Most of the vets at Loomis are from Davis originally. And, of course, I have a huge relationship with Loomis (and Davis) established.
    Luckily, Slick isn’t at the point of needing to go to Loomis. We had considered it when we were Xraying him and scoping him, but the results were fine so we know now to be more aggressive with the sand. Yes, his blood panels did tell us about his sinus infection (cleared now) and that he is otherwise fine. So far.
    I totally appreciate your input and yes, Davis is very close and very helpful. I simply prefer Loomis. They have saved the lives of three of my horses over the years, and I value them.

  3. Jenifer R

    Given how long this situation has gone on let me just suggest that you do four things: hook up the trailer, check googlemap or mapquest, load up the trailer, and take Slick to UC Davis. Just a little suggestion from someone who has had horses for over a half a century and probably seen most everything that can happen to horses at least twice.

    I hope your vet(s) did several blood panels over the course of this illness and compared them with each other and explained the results.

    I am not a vet “nor do I play one on tv.” However, your pony is becoming progressively weaker because of how long this is going on and at some point he will simply give up.

    Be pro-active and if your vet(s) do not want you to get a second opinion or give you a UC Davis referral, keep trying until you find a cooperative vet.

  4. Ritambhara Tyson

    You might check out the benefits of using bentonite clay. It draws toxins out of the colon and binds them in the clay and passed thru the system. It’s used for all kinds of ailments in horses.

  5. Jody Brittain

    I DO Use Metamucil! But on the real psyllium. There are two types on the shelves…be careful! I know because i grabbed the wrong one by mistake and when I got it home and opened it up, it looked different.

    I Give it to Libby on thinly sliced apples….I slice a half an apple, put in a plastic container with lid, and put in two good heaping tablespoons of Metamucil Shake all the way to the pasture, and she can’t wait to get her little nose in the stuff! I usually hand feet the apples and then when that is all gone, she likes the bowl! LOL

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