Author Box
Articles Categories
All Categories
Articles Resources

Equine Colic: What Is It, What Causes It, What Are the Signs?

April 17, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 142

Colic is a veterinarian term for conditions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that cause bloating, constipation, diarrhea, obstructions and even death. There are numerous causes, we will cover those most commonly seen in horses.

The most severe type of colic is an intestinal obstruction. This type of colic always requires surgery and must be diagnosed by your veterinarian. If your horse is not responding to treatment or continuing to deteriorate, this is an emergency. Call your veterinarian immediately.

The primary cause of obstruction colic are parasites. Their migration through the intestines can cause bleeding which decreases circulation or blood supply to the intestines. This, in turn, decreases motility and causes pain. As motility is lost it is difficult for the horse to pass stool. His symptoms are much the same as constipation in humans. There is bloating, straining to stool and abdominal pain. In large infestations the parasites cause a blockage, and if the bleeding is severe enough it can cause a necrotic bowel. A good preventative measure is to give wormers on a regular schedule as recommended your vet.

Spasmodic colic is generally caused by a buildup of gas in the intestines and responds well to pain relievers and antispasmotics. Grass hays tend to cause gas and bloat in some horses and can sometimes be relieved with probiotics. Other causes of colic are sudden changes in feeds or feeding schedule, moldy or poor quality hay, decreased roughage in the diet and an inadequate supply of fresh water available.

Sand colic is due to the ingestion of sand and dirt. It is frequently found in sandy desert areas and in areas where fields are over grazed. At first you may see diarrhea as the sand causes intestinal irritation. As the amount of sand increases, so does the irritation and weight of sand in the colon. This, in turn, decreases gastric motility and causes gas buildup and pain. Your horse will strain at stool and you will be able to see sand in the feces. Giving your horse psyllium on a regular schedule can help prevent sand colic. You will also need to make sure he has an adequate supply of clean water available at all times.

Impaction colic can be caused by food that has not been sufficiently chewed. This may occur in horses that bolt their food, those on pelleted or cubed alfalfa with insufficient roughage in the diet and older horses that have difficulty chewing. Some preventative measures include slow feeders for those that bolt their food, providing adequate roughage, a ready supply of clean water and floating the teeth especially in older horses.

If you believe your horse is beginning to colic, you may want to assess his vital signs frequently and have them ready for you veterinarian. Normal vital signs for a horse are as follows: Heart rate of 35 to 45 beats per minute and can be heard on the left side of the chest just behind the elbow. Respiratory rate is 10 to 12 breaths per minute. Temperature should always be taken rectally and should be 99 to 100 degrees fahrenheit.(If greater than 102, call your vet.) Capillary refill should be 2 to 3 seconds and is checked by pressing on the gums.This is measured by counting the seconds it takes for normal color to return when pressure is released. The gums should be moist and pink, not pale or dry.

Signs of colic may be vague and difficult to recognize at first. A horse with colic may refuse to eat or he may eat a few bites and walk away, then return. He may refuse to drink water. He may paw at the ground and bite at or use his hind foot to kick at his stomach. He may lay down and roll. As the pain increases so do the symptoms. He will become extremely restless and the frequency and severity of his actions will increase. If you place your ear to his stomach or if you have a stethoscope, you will notice either a lack of or very slow bowel sounds or they may be tinkling and high pitched. You should assess his bowel sounds and vital signs every ten minutes as changes indicate improvement or deterioration.

Any colic can become an obstruction colic if not treated and any colic can become a twisted gut if the horse is allowed to roll. The intestine is loosely connected to the abdominal wall by a wide but thin membrane called the omentum. This allows the intestines to float within the abdomen. When he rolls the movement can cause the intestine to twist around itself. This can be life threatening and needs immediate attention from your veterinarian. Keep him walking and offer him water. In milder cases the walking may restore peristalsis (gut motility) and he may begin to pass gas and stool.

A word of caution. I am not a veterinarian. I am a horse owner who has had to deal with colic many times and the information I offer is gleaned from what I have learned from experience with my own horses and working with my veterinarian. My suggestions are, by no means, meant to replace the advice of your veterinarian. They are only a guideline for calling your veterinarian and what treatment you can give until she can be reached or until she arrives. You should speak to her about this ahead of time and make a plan for emergencies. Ask what medications she recommends that you keep on hand for emergencies and how to give them. Ask how to handle your horse while he is in pain, what you can do to make him feel better. Ask how often she wants you to call with updates on his condition.

Your veterinarian is always ready and willing to accept frequent calls so that she may continue to assess any emergency you may have with your horse. The best plan is one that is set up ahead of time, so set up a plan for treating colic now before the emergency strikes. You will be grateful that you did.

Source: EzineArticles
Was this Helpful ?

Rate this Article

Article Tags:

Equine Colic


Vital Signs


Sand Colic


Clean Water


Horse Psyllium


Impaction Colic



As a consequence, they are better placed to fight any disease effortlessly. Alternatively, you can give them organic and natural food.As a consequence, they are better placed to fight any disease

By: Simon Liva l Pets > Dogs l December 11, 2012 lViews: 252

The captive parrot population is exploding and so is the neglect and abuse, breeders, Bird Food Manufacturers all seek to keep this trend growing in the name of profits,with no regard for the

By: Ray McLennan l Pets > Birds l November 16, 2012 lViews: 767

The Cardinal is the Kentucky state bird. Many people love watching them in their backyards but are not familiar with the facts about this Northeastern bird. They are stunning against any background

By: Jack l Pets > Birds l October 31, 2012 lViews: 246

Establishing and maintaining good levels of oral health is important for both humans and animals to ensure they can enjoy a quality of life. Each part of the mouth area, from the teeth to the jaws,

By: Edward Swan l Pets > Dogs l October 27, 2012 lViews: 229

There's more to keeping your dog at home than just installing an invisible pet fence and hoping for the best. Take steps to train your dog so he understands and accepts his boundaries.

By: Penny Q Jones l Pets > Dogs l July 06, 2012 lViews: 262

Dogs face many complications and diseases during their lifetime and effects from parasites are one of them. This article entails some significant features that can help you understand the importance

By: Kannoujia Tapas l Pets > Dogs l July 05, 2012 lViews: 262

There is a massive amount of knowledge on a sports science level that can be gained from studying biomechanics and gait analysis. Sports scientists can gain a wholly objective view of how an

By: Erin Brankowskil Pets > Horsesl June 14, 2012 lViews: 219

Any horse or pony can partake in horse agility regardless of whether they are broken to ride or not, they simply need to be fit enough.  Handlers can be of all ages, abilities and fitness level; the

By: Erin Brankowskil Pets > Horsesl June 14, 2012 lViews: 251

Distance learning is hugely popular amongst horse owners/carers.  For those with busy lives, home study is an ideal way of expanding and updating their horse care knowledge.

By: Erin Brankowskil Pets > Horsesl June 14, 2012 lViews: 201

Forage is a vital part of your horse's dietary needs. Some horse owners often believe that bagged feed (mixes and cubes) is important in keeping your horse in a good condition and with plenty of

By: Erin Brankowskil Pets > Horsesl June 14, 2012 lViews: 233

There is something about a horse that is good for a man or woman and in fact children too. The special relationship that can bond between people and horses or ponies is quite unique as the rider and

By: Margaret Tetteyl Pets > Horsesl June 12, 2012 lViews: 228

Let's face it horses are like people they have good days and bad. In this article we're going to explore your horses manners and how you can make sure that your horse behaves exactly the way you want

By: Mike Lucerol Pets > Horsesl June 08, 2012 lViews: 179

You must always maintain a zone of safety when working with your horse. Learn to read his body language, he will tell you how he feels.

By: Charlene A Fultzl Pets > Horsesl February 21, 2012 lViews: 139

Discuss this Article

comments powered by Disqus