Faecal Water Syndrome and Watery Droppings

What is it?

Faecal Water Syndrome (FWS), or Free Faecal Water Syndrome (FFW), is a condition described when a horse expels excess water before, during or after a bowel movement. Unlike diarrhoea, which is usually caused by an underlying health or digestive issue, Faecal Water Syndrome and watery droppings are not necessarily a sign that there’s something deeper to worry about – however, it can cause discomfort for horses who suffer from it. 

Water can irritate the skin of the tail and hind legs. In winter constant moisture will keep the skin cold and potentially freeze. In the summer, it can attract flies to the horse. Both of these lead to further irritation

What are the causes of Faecal Water Syndrome and watery droppings?

There are lots of different things that can trigger FWS:

  • Age – older horses with less robust digestive systems can be especially prone to the condition
  • Dietary changes – sudden switches from grass to hay, or the introduction of new foods can cause disruptions in the bacteria of the hindgut
  • Worming – horses who have been recently wormed can sometimes experience the condition as the worms are shed from the gut
  • Stress – stress can cause physiological changes in the gut and lead to FWS

What can you do?

Keep the legs and tail clean and dry, to prevent faecal water from sitting on the skin and causing irritation. Regularly checking your horse will help you monitor the condition of the skin, and notice any signs of soreness or pain. 

Where possible, provide a slow transition between diets so the horse’s body can adapt more easily to new food. Sudden changes are sometimes unavoidable, especially in autumn when grass becomes scarce. But it is worth considering whether to introduce some hay into their diet whilst they’re still out at pasture.

Pro-Choice FWS, a faecal water supplement manufactured by Aviform, can help treat and prevent faecal water syndrome. The powder supplement can be added to your horse’s feed and contains pre, pro and postbiotics to help maintain the microflora in the gut biome. Meanwhile, a bentonite clay binder helps to absorb excess moisture from the gut.