Equine proliferative enteropathy: A cause of weight loss, colic, diarrhoea and hypoproteinaemia in foals on three breeding farms in Canada

J. P. Lavoie, R. Drolet, D. Parsons, R. Leguillette, R. Sauvageau, J. Shapiro, L. Houle, G. Hallé, C. J. Gebhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Proliferative enteropathy (PE) is a transmissible enteric disease caused by Lawsonia intracellularis. An outbreak of equine PE was diagnosed in foals from 3 breeding farms. Most foals had been weaned prior to the appearance of clinical signs, which included depression, rapid and marked weight loss, subcutaneous oedema, diarrhoea and colic. Poor body condition with a rough haircoat and a potbellied appearance were common findings in affected foals. Respiratory tract infection, dermatitis and intestinal parasitism were also found in some foals. Haematological and plasma biochemical abnormalities included hypoproteinaemia, transient leucocytosis, anaemia and increased serum creatinine kinase concentration. Postmortem diagnosis of PE was confirmed on 4 foals based on the presence of characteristic intracellular bacteria within the apical cytoplasm of proliferating crypt epithelial cells of the intestinal mucosa, using silver stains, and by results of PCR analysis and immunohistochemistry. Antemortem diagnosis of equine PE was based on the clinical signs, hypoproteinaemia and the exclusion of common enteric infections. Faecal PCR analysis was positive for the presence of L. intracellularis in 6 of 18 foals tested while the serum of all 7 foals with PE serologically evaluated had antibodies against L. intracellularis. Most foals were treated with erythromycin estolate alone or combined with rifampin for a minimum of 21 days. Additional symptomatic treatments were administered when indicated. All but one foal treated with erythromycin survived the infection. This study indicates that equine PE should be included in the differential diagnosis of outbreaks of rapid weight loss, diarrhoea, colic and hypoproteinaemia in weanling foals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-425
Number of pages8
JournalEquine veterinary journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2000


  • Colic
  • Diarrhoea
  • Foals
  • Horse
  • Hypoproteinaemia
  • Lawsonia intracellularis
  • Proliferative enteropathy
  • Weight loss


Dive into the research topics of 'Equine proliferative enteropathy: A cause of weight loss, colic, diarrhoea and hypoproteinaemia in foals on three breeding farms in Canada'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this