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Chew On This: Does Bit Chewing Stimulate Gut Motility? – Horse Racing News


The flow of food and waste through the intestines is critical to the health and wellbeing of horses; when movement through the intestines is interrupted, and gut motility slowed, the horse is at risk of serious illness and death. 

Ileus is a disruption of the normal flow of materials through the intestine without a physical cause. In horses, this condition is a possible complication of abdominal surgery. 

Humans suffering from ileus have found relief from “sham feeding,” like chewing gum. No food is ingested, but the chewing and swallowing action tricks the body into believing it is eating, which may promote gastrointestinal motility and improve clinical signs. 

A study led by Dr. Molly Patton, of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, wanted to determine if horses that chewed on the bit, a form of sham feeding, would have reduced gastrointestinal total transit time (TTT) in their small intestine. 

Patton and a team of researchers used nine healthy horses for the study. The horses were all fed a standardized diet, then fasted for 24 hours. A video endoscopy capsule and acetaminophen were placed in the stomach via nasogastric tube. The horses were then divided into two groups: one group wore a bit and chewed for 20 minutes every six hours and one group did not wear a bit. Three weeks later, the groups reversed, allowing each horse to serve as its own control.

Acetaminophen serum samples were used as a marker to gauge gastric emptying time (GET). Additionally, ALICAM capsules helped in determining not only GET but also small intestinal transit time (SITT) and overall orocecal transit time (OCTT), which measures the time from ingestion to passing the ileocecal valve.

The findings indicated a significant reduction in OCTT after bit chewing took place. No adverse effects were reported. The scientists concluded that bit chewing could be a safe and cost-effective means to enhance small intestinal motility in horses, possibly leading to better post-surgical outcomes. 

Read more at Equine Science Update

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