Horse Colic

Horse colic is the number one killer of horses.

Every case should be taken seriously because it can be difficult to tell the mild cases from the potentially serous ones in the early stages.

Most cases of colic are mild. Less than 10% of all colic cases are severe enough to require surgery or cause death.

Colic is not a disease it is symptom of disease. Colic indicates a painful problem in the horses belly. Learn to recognize the symptoms of horse colic.

Recognizing Colic
Learn to recognize colic, signs of colic include:

• Turning the head toward the flank
• Pawing
• Kicking or biting at the belly
• Stretching out as if to urinate
• Repeatedly lying down and getting up or trying to do so
• Repeated rolling, often with grunting sounds
• Sitting in a dog-like position, or lying on the back
• Holding the head in an unusual position (with neck stretched out and head rotated to one side
• Leaving food or being completely disinterested in food
• Putting the head down to drink water without doing so
• Lack of bowel movement or fewer bowel movements than normal
• Reduced or absent digestive sounds
• Sweating (unrelated to hot weather)
• Rapid breathing or flared nostrils
• Elevated pulse rate (greater than 50 beats per minute)
• Depression
• Lip curling unrelated to sexual interest

What to do if you suspect a case of colic. Time is the most critical factor if colic is to be successfully treated.

If you suspect colic in a horse:

-Call your veterinarian immediately
-Remove all food from the horses surroundings (leave the water)
-Move the horse to a smaller enclosure if necessary ( a box stall or yard)
-Watch him closely
-Allow the horse to rest if it wants to stand or lie quietly
-Walk the horse around if it is continually rolling or in danger of hurting itself - but do not tire the horse with too much walking.
-Keep the horse under close observation until the signs of colic resolve or the veterinarian arrives.

Signs of Colic

When calling the vet give as much information as possible.
• Specific signs of colic and severity
• Pulse or heart rate (beats per minute) measured over the heart (just behind or above the left elbow)
• Respiratory rate (breaths per minute) measured by watching the rise and fall of the flank with each breath
• Rectal temperature
• Color of the gums (white, pale pink, dark pink, red or bluish-purple)
• Moistness of the gums (moist, tacky or dry)
• Refill time for gum color (the time it takes for the color to return to the horse's gum after you press on the gum with your thumb; normal is 1-2seconds)
• Digestive sounds (if any)
• Bowel movements, including color, consistency and frequency
• Any recent changes in management, feeding or exercise
• Medical history (including deworming and any past episodes of colic
• Breeding history and pregnancy status if it is a mareand recent breeding history if it is a stallion
• Insurance status of the horse

Follow your veterinarian's advice and do not administer any drugs to the horses unless directed to do so by your veterinarian

Treatment for Horse Colic

Depending on the severity of colic, treatment options include:

-Pain relievers or sedatives
-Fluid therapy, to correct dehydration and soften dry, firm intestinal contents
-Laxatives, such as mineral oil, to help reestablish normal intestinal function
-Enema of young foals with a blockage (impaction)

Preventing Horse Colic - The following guidelines can maximize your horse's health and reduce the risk of colic.

• Establish a set daily routine - including feeding, exercise and turnout schedules and stick to it, even on weekends
• Feed a high quality diet comprised primarily of roughage (pasture, hay, hay cubes) except young foals, all horses should be fed at least 1% of their body weight (1 lb. per 100lbs of body weight) of good quality roughage per day.
• Limit the amount of grain-based feeds. Feed only as supplements and not more than 50% of the diet
• Divide the daily concentrate ration into two or more smaller feedings rather than 1 large one
• Hay is best fed free-choice
• Keep a regular parasite control program
• Provide exercise and turnout every day
• Make any changes to diet, housing, and activity level gradually
• Provide fresh, clean water at all times
• Avoid giving your horse medications unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian
• Check hay, bedding, pasture and environment for potentially dangerous substances, such as blister beetles, noxious weeds and other ingestible foreign matter
• Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soil
• Reduce stress for the horse (for you too)
• Pay close attention to horses that have had previous bouts of colic. They may be at greater risk
• Maintain accurate records of management, feeding practices and health

One of the best preventitive measure for horse colic is to regularly keep a close eye on all horses. The earlier you spot the signs of colic, the better chances the horse has of a recovery.

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