White thin horse in stable
White thin horse in stable

Helping animals through better nutrition

Eight-year-old Bullo works as a gharry horse in the bustling town of Debre Zeit, 30 miles south-east of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Six hours a day, every day, he hauls people and their goods to and from the busy market. The life of a gharry horse is tough and exhausting, and as a result Bullo suffers from lameness in one of his front feet.

But when Bullo fell ill with serious abdominal pains, it meant that he couldn’t work at all for his owner, Fikru. Fikru was distraught when he saw his horse in pain. He was sweating and rolling around on the ground:

‘He kept biting and kicking at his abdomen. I didn’t know what to do as I could not afford to get the vet to look at him. I became so worried because I have to work to feed my wife and three children. Then my friend told me about SPANA, so I walked Bullo over there to see what could be done.’

At SPANA’s permanent clinic in the town, the vet quickly diagnosed that Bullo was suffering from colic. Bullo was dehydrated and had been feeding mainly on straw that’s hard to digest so there were painful blockages in his intestines. The state of his unrasped teeth hadn’t helped his condition, either. These were sharply pointed, which meant that Bullo couldn’t chew his food properly.

Thin horse in a yellow stable

Using a nasogastric tube, the vet began by giving Bullo seven litres of fluid mixed with paraffin oil and Epsom salts. This procedure was repeated three times a day to hydrate his gut contents and get the intestines moving to clear his system.

During this time, Bullo’s teeth were rasped, he was fed only small amounts of green grass and was given medicines to control his discomfort. Finally, after three days of treatment and observation in the clinic, the blockages passed. The pain was gone and Bullo was on the road to recovery.

Fikru was so grateful for SPANA’s help. He listened carefully to the vet’s advice about making changes to Bullo’s diet. Lots more green grass. No more straw or woody materials. Water four times a day to prevent dehydration. Plus, Fikru was told he needed to bring Bullo back to the clinic in three months’ time to have his teeth checked.

‘The people at the SPANA clinic were very kind and have saved the life of my horse.’

Find out how you could help ease the painful symptoms of colic in another horse like Bullo.

Find out about the very specific diet of horses, with our horse feeding guide: What do horses eat?

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