Chronic inflammatory small bowel disease has an increased prevalence in sport horses. The disorder is associated with intermittent colic, weight loss, poor performance and anemia. Chronic inflammatory small bowel disease seems to have a predominance in dressage horses, but its exact cause is unknown to date. Danish researchers have now identified gluten sensitivity as a potential cause of equine chronic inflammatory small bowel disease in sport horses. Gluten is a major compound of the endosperm of various cereals, in particular of wheat, barley and rye.
Some horses fed a gluten-rich ration showed concurrent antibody responses as seen in celiac patients. To test the pathogenic role of gluten, sport horses with chronic inflammatory bowel disease and antibodies followed a gluten-free ration during 6 months. Both villous morphology and blood antibody titers improved in this horse. The development of a screening test aimed at identifying gluten-sensitivity in individual horses based on blood samples is currently in progress.