Hay Belly in Horses

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Causes Treatment and Prevention
If your horse develops a big sagging belly but hasnt gained weight on the rest of its frame it may be suffering from hay belly. This is a condition of gas accumulation in the gut that indicates a nutritional imbalance from eating poorquality hay. While a distended abdomen may look alarming hay belly is a condition that is treatable by improving the nutrient content of a horses diet.
What Is Hay Belly?
The term hay belly refers to a bloated gut from the accumulation of gas. The belly area appears pendulous sticking out at the sides and hanging down low. Hay belly may somewhat counterintuitively make a horse look underweight with protruding ribs and a lack of padding and muscles along the neck withers and haunches.
Symptoms of Hay Belly in Horses
Hay belly is not a sudden change but rather a gradual enlargement of a horses midsection in response to diet and perhaps lack of fitness over time. Symptoms may be vague but generally accompany a bloated appearance.

The telltale sign of hay belly is a disproportionately large abdomen on a normal or thin horse. The belly will sag and bulge out to the sides
In addition to the obvious distention of the abdomen a horse may also develop a lackluster coat and may appear to be declining in condition as it loses muscle tone over its topline.
Hay belly can occur in horses of any age so if you notice a big belly and degraded appearance in your oncevibrant horse contact your veterinarian for a diagnosis.

What Causes Hay Belly in Horses?
Generally hay belly is caused by poor nutrition 1 More specifically it happens when
A horse is fed poorquality forage such as old hay or hay that lacks adequate protein.
The diet lacks a grain supplement.
A horse overeats to compensate for the lack of nutrients in its feed.
Excessive consumption of high fiber and low protein feed alters the fermentation process in the horses hind gut producing excess gas.

Exercise is insufficient to help maintain healthy digestion and overall muscle tone.
How Do Vets Diagnose Hay Belly in Horses?
If your horse has a bloated belly consult your veterinarian. A distended abdomen can be a sign of weight gain or other serious health issues such as a heavy parasitic infection or endocrine dysfunction Cushings disease. These conditions must be ruled out to definitively diagnose hay belly.

How to Treat Hay Belly
Your veterinarian can offer advice on a highquality