Colic in Horses
Colic is a general term for abdominal pain and while many cases are mild and inconsequential, others can be life-threatening. It’s important to take all cases seriously and seek veterinary advice at an early stage.
Horses usually display the following symptoms when having abdominal discomfort:
- Anxiety or depression
- Pawing at the ground
- Looking at the flank
- Rolling or wanting to lie down
- Playing in the water bucket but not drinking
- Lack of defecation
- Lack of appetite
- Excessive sweating
- Abnormally high pulse rate (over 50 beats per minute)
- Lack of normal gut noises
- Frequent attempts to urinate
Generally, the more severe their pain, the more violently they behave and the more urgent the need for veterinary intervention.
Another useful sign to monitor is the colour of their gums, white, purple or bright red gums are an indication that there is something seriously wrong. The source of pain can be from areas such as the kidneys, muscles, liver and reproductive organs. Most commonly, however, colic is attributable to pain originating in the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) or digestive system.
There are several types of colic which lead to abdominal discomfort. These include distension colic which is due to excess gas build-up, obstruction colic which might be caused by the impaction of food or the presence of enteroliths (very hard rock like structures that form in the GIT over time) and spasmodic colic where spasms cause the intestines to contract painfully.
Strangulations, which occur when the gut twists on itself and inflammatory disorders like enteritis and colitis, are also responsible for colic. Vets will do a thorough clinical examination to evaluate the seriousness of the horse’s condition. This might include placing a tube into the horse’s nose and down to the stomach to allow for the release of pressure accumulated in the stomach.
Most colics respond to conservative medical treatment where vets treat with pain relief and provide fluids via the tube to the stomach, or in the form of a drip. Vets might also treat with drugs which enhance passage of gut content, have a laxative effect, or help to relieve spasms in the GIT. Cases that don’t respond could be referred to specialist facilities for intensive care and sometimes surgery.
There are also several complementary therapies like Homeopathy which help to play a role in calming the horse and re-establishing normal gut function in some cases.
Colic is much better prevented rather than cured. Regular healthcare such as dental check-ups and intestinal parasite management are especially important to help prevent colic but of utmost priority is keeping risk factors to a minimum.
Risk factors include:
- Sudden changes of diet
- Activity changes
- Environmental and management factors like stabling and transport
Always be sure to maintain a regular feeding schedule with good quality concentrates. Allow access to forage on balanced soils for as much of the day as possible and ensure constant access to clean water. As far as possible, make all changes slowly and monitor horses exposed to high risk situations closely. This will go a long way to keeping your horse colic free.
(Source: The Rural NZ and PetMD)
If you have a horse that has physical or mental issues and you would like to treat your it in a more natural way, please feel free to contact me per email or call me on 07 5480824 or 021 494898.
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The information contained in this website is not intended to replace guidance from your veterinarian. Bowen Therapy and Homeopathy are complementary to veterinary treatment and the general care of the animal.