What Does It Mean When A Horse Has Colic? (Question)

Colic indicates a painful problem in your horse’s abdomen. Because colic is often unpredictable and frequently unpreventable, it’s a common concern for horse owners. Horses are naturally prone to colic. Fortunately, over 80 percent of colic types respond well to treatment on the farm.

How do you tell if a horse has colic?

  • “It might do lip curling, may be depressed, lay down more than normal. These are all pretty mild signs, but if it’s a change in behavior for your horse, it may be a sign of colic.” More serious signs include pawing, stretching out, flank watching, teeth grinding, a bloated abdomen, kicking at the abdomen, rolling, or getting up and down repeatedly.

What is the most common cause of colic in horses?

Gas colic – all colics are associated with some gas build up. Gas can accumulate in the stomach as well as the intestines. As gas builds up, the gut distends, causing abdominal pain. Excessive gas can be produced by bacteria in the gut after ingestion of large amounts of grain or moldy feeds.

Can a horse survive colic?

Results. The overall survival rate for colic horses over the 10 -year study period was 68% (confidence intervals (CI): 66–71%; 1087/1588). In the medical group, 1093 horses, short-term survival was 87% (CI: 85–89%). Thirty one % of referred horses were given diagnoses requiring surgical intervention (CI: 29–33%).

What happens to a horse with colic?

Mild colic symptoms include dullness, curling up of the top lip, adopting a ‘straining to urinate’ stance and lying quietly. Severe colic pain can cause a horse to roll and throw itself about in an uncontrolled and dangerous manner.

Should you walk a horse with colic?

Walk Your Horse – Walking can assist moving gas through the gut and can prevent injury from rolling. Most mild colics will even clear up from just a simple brisk walk. Try to walk the horse to keep them comfortable, but never to the point of exhaustion. Never aggressively exercise the horse.

How do you fix colic in horses?

Caring for the colicky horse

  1. Always have fresh, clean water.
  2. Allow pasture turnout.
  3. Avoid feeding hay on the ground in sandy areas.
  4. Feed grain and pelleted feeds only when you need to.
  5. Watch horses carefully for colic following changes in exercise, stabling, or diet.
  6. Float your horse’s teeth every six months.

Can horses poop with colic?

These horses may distend in the belly, looking bigger and rounder than usual and they may or may not pass manure. However, be aware that a horse with severe and serious colic can still pass manure as the problem in the gut may be well forward of the rectum; the transit time from mouth to manure can be days.

How much is colic surgery for a horse?

The procedure will require that you start by immediately providing a deposit of $3000- $5000. The total cost may range between $5000- $10,000. This all may sound like a nightmare, but this is actually the nature of abdominal crisis and severe colic in the horse.

Does beer help colic in horses?

No matter how much the vet call is, think about how heartbroken you will be if you wait too long and there is a big issue. While beer may help with colic in very limited conditions, your veterinarian will be able to advise the best course of action to get your equine partner feeling his best again!

How long after colic can I ride my horse?

When he has mild gas colics that are taken care of with just banamine, I give him 24 hours and then a light ride.

Is colic an illness?

Colic is an attack of crying and what appears to be abdominal pain in young infancy. It is a common condition and is estimated to affect up to 1 in 5 infants during their first few months. All infants cry for various reasons, including hunger, cold, tiredness, heat, or because the diaper needs changing.

How do you prevent colic in horses?

Feeding to Prevent Colic

  1. Feed your horse only what he needs.
  2. Stick with your feeding program.
  3. With grain, think small and often.
  4. Keep him moving.
  5. Get sand out of the ration.
  6. Remove manure from paddocks and fields.
  7. Use dewormers effectively.
  8. Don’t miss out!

How do you treat colic in horses naturally?

Colic and helpful herbs for horses

  1. Dandelion. Dandelions are a great source of calcium, iron, potassium, and beta carotene.
  2. Valerian Root. Valerian root, which is known as a sedative for humans, can also be used in horses to relieve nervous tension.
  3. Chamomile.
  4. Meadowsweet.
  5. Peppermint.

How do you prevent gas colic?

The best way to prevent gas colic is to provide good nutrition and follow proper feeding guidelines.

  1. Feed at least 2% of your horse’s body weight in good quality fiber with at least 1% of it in the form of long-stemmed fiber (grass or hay)
  2. Prior to feeding, check your horse’s hay for mold or weeds.

Equine Colic: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

The causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of equine colic are all covered in this article. My Horse University’s Online Equine Nutrition Course was used to create this version. Colic: What Causes It and What Symptoms It Has However, horse owners commonly refer to colic as difficulties with the gastro-intestinal system. Colic is defined as any stomach pain, regardless of the source. However, while there are multiple causes of colic in horses, the majority of them are connected to the structure and microbiology of the horse’s gastrointestinal system.

  • Diets based mostly on grains with little or no forage
  • Diet that is moldy or tainted
  • A sudden shift in feed
  • Parasite infestation Water consumption is insufficient, resulting in impaction colics. Ingestion of sand
  • NSAIDs are used over an extended period of time. Stress, dental difficulties, and other issues

An impaction is an obstruction caused by anything the horse has consumed and passed through. NSAID is an abbreviation for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Figure 1 shows an example of a formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formal Strongyles, a kind of parasite, can be a prevalent cause of colic in infants.

It is critical to maintain a deworming regimen in order to keep parasites at bay in horses.

If a horse’s dental issues prevent him from chewing his food properly, he may suffer from colic.

The following are signs of colic:

  • Pawing, rolling, bloating, sweating, distress, uneasiness, loss of interest in food and drink, unusual postures (sitting, stretching), and vomiting are all possible symptoms. Absence of guttural noises

Figure 2: Photograph shows a horse rolling as a result of colic. It is possible that a colicky foal will not exhibit the normal indicators of colic. Instead, they may prefer to lie on their backs with their legs tucked in behind them. The owner or manager of a foal must be on the lookout for any aberrant behavior in the foal. Figure 3: This foal’s abdomen has become inflated as a result of gas. Dr. Judy Marteniuk of Michigan State University is the source for this information. Colic comes in a variety of forms.

  • If the stomach ruptures, it might result in grave consequences for the patient.
  • Because of its motility, the small intestine is more prone to becoming twisted.
  • Additionally, both the small and large intestines can get displaced inside the abdominal cavity, resulting in discomfort as well as reduced blood supply to the area.
  • Displacement colic necessitates the necessity for prompt surgical intervention.
  • The mesentery connects the small intestine to the rest of the body.
  • Impaction colic is characterized by the large intestine folding in on itself and undergoing many changes in direction (flexures) as well as variations in diameter.
  • Impactions can be triggered by coarse feed material, dehydration, or the buildup of foreign material such as sand in the system.

Impaction colics are most usually seen in the cecum and the large intestine, respectively.

Gas can build up in the stomach and intestines, as well as the rest of the body.

Excessive gas can be produced by bacteria in the gut after ingestion of large amounts of grain or moldy feeds.

Spasmodic colic – defined as painful contractions of the smooth muscle in the intestines.

Over excitement can trigger spasmodic colic.

Horses with enteritis may also have diarrhea.

Treatment To give the proper treatment for colic, it is important to determine the cause, so that it can be corrected.

For these reasons make sure to have a veterinarian evaluate your horse as soon as possible. Many cases of colic can be treated successfully with medication, while others involving severe impactions or twists may require immediate surgery. While you are waiting for your veterinarian, you should:

  • Keep an eye on your horse and keep track of his vital signs as well as the passage of any excrement. Take away the ability to access the feed. If there is a blockage, any feed intake will simply serve to exacerbate the situation. Allow as much rest as possible for the horse. A horse must be walked only when the horse is rolling and threatening himself or others
  • Otherwise, it is unnecessary. Do not provide any medicine unless specifically instructed to do so by the attending veterinarian. Pain medication may be used to disguise the symptoms of colic, making identification and treatment more difficult. Furthermore, if banamine is injected intramuscularly, it can result in a clostridial abscess that is potentially lethal. Banamine should always be delivered intravenously or orally
  • It should never be injected.

In addition to doing a rectal exam, the veterinarian will listen for gut sounds and check vital signs upon arrival. A nasogastric tube will also be passed. Medicines and the insertion of a nasogastric (stomach tube) to relieve gas and provide medications are effective treatments for most colic cases on a small farm. When a veterinarian detects a displacement or an impaction that cannot be adequately treated on site, she will refer you to an equine surgical hospital for further evaluation. Prevention Some of the preventative actions are self-explanatory once you’ve determined the source of the colic and have successfully treated it.

Other preventive actions include the following:

  • Feed your horse on a regular basis, especially on weekends
  • This includes hay. Make no unexpected modifications to the horse’s food
  • Instead, gradually introduce alterations. A reliable source of clean, fresh water should be accessible at all times. Maintain the cleanliness of feed boxes and hay racks, as well as the feedstuffs, to ensure they are free of mold and dust. Check your teeth on a regular basis for dental conditions that might cause chewing difficulties. Make sure you get enough exercise. A suitable amount of forage should be provided (at least 50% of the overall diet)
  • Prevent sand from getting into the feed by keeping it off the ground. Implement a parasite management program that is successful and meets the demands of your farm.

Figure 6. This horse is chewing hay on sandy terrain, which might result in the horse absorbing sand and then suffering from sand colic as a result. Sand colic is more prevalent in sandy regions of the United States (Image left) Bibliographical Citations and Additional Resources seXtension In this article from HorseQuest, we discuss the management and control of internal parasites in horseseXtension. HorseQuest article on the importance of nutrition in the treatment of horse colic and laminitis.

Colic In Horses

The term “colic” simply refers to belly discomfort. Colic can be caused by a variety of factors, and the symptoms can range from minor to severe.

What are the symptoms?

A horse suffering from colic will display a variety of symptoms, which will vary based on the source of the colic, how long it has been present, and how stoic the patient is. Light colic symptoms include dullness and curling up of the upper lip, as well as taking a “restraining to urinate” stance, as well as lying down quietly. In severe colic pain, a horse may roll and toss itself around in an uncontrolled and very hazardous way.

What causes colic?

Symptoms of colic can range from something as simple as an intestinal “spasm” caused by an alteration to one’s food or routine (a digestive upset) to something more serious like intestine twisting, which results in the strangling of the intestine’s blood supply (colon strangulation). In addition to impaction (where the intestine becomes clogged with semi-digested food material), other causes of obstruction include repositioning or displacement of a segment of bowel from its normal position, torsion or twisting, strangulation through hernias or holes, strangulation by fatty tumors wrapping around them, and other causes of obstruction.

How is colic treated?

Because different forms of colic necessitate different therapies, the first step is to get a correct diagnosis. Generally, simple big colon impactions respond well to therapy with lubrication consisting of oil, salt, and water administered through a stomach tube. Pain relievers such as ‘Buscopan,’ which is a spasmolytic, and flunixin (which is a muscle relaxant) are effective in many situations (Banamine).

Depending on the situation, extensive treatment – either medicinal or surgical – may be required in order to preserve the horse’s life. There are certain colics that can only be addressed by surgically correcting the underlying condition that is causing them.

What should I do if my horse has colic?

Call your veterinarian as soon as possible and describe the signs and symptoms. Persistent, intense pain is typically a sign of a major condition and the need for immediate medical attention. If at all possible, keep the horse walking; nevertheless, do not attempt to remove the horse from its stall if it is suffering from unmanageable discomfort. It’s important to remember that early diagnosis and treatment of colic are essential for success. It is preferable if the horse has recovered by the time the veterinarian comes rather of being at “death’s door” as a result of waiting too long to seek assistance.

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How can a vet tell what is causing the colic?

In addition to straightforward clinical examinations of the horse’s behavior, attitude, temperature, pulse and respiratory rates, and mucous membrane color, veterinary investigations such as rectal examination, collection of blood and peritoneal (abdominal) fluid samples, ultrasound scanning, and passage of a stomach tube can all provide indications of the type and severity of the problem in the horse.

The actual cause of a problem is not always obvious, and in certain situations, surgery (exploratory laparotomy) is required to allow investigation of the abdominal cavity in order to locate the anomaly and to allow repair or therapy.

Any time medical or surgical care is required, the sooner the choice can be taken and the therapy is initiated, the more likely the horse’s chances of survival are to be increased.

Can I prevent my horse from getting colic?

Yes, to a certain extent this is true. Deworming on a regular basis to avoid harm to the gut and its blood supply is quite beneficial. Maintaining a routine and avoiding drastic changes in management and feed type are also beneficial. Equine intestines, and in particular their intestines, are creatures of habit and routine. Changes should be implemented gradually and with caution. The use of straw as bedding for horses that are injured or needing a rest from exercise is not recommended. Many people will consume their bedding, which will have an affect on their big intestines as a result.

They should have unrestricted access to drinking water as well as, if at all feasible, some physical activity.

You must be on the lookout for any changes in the health of your horse or pony.

Dealing With Equine Colic: Here are 33 Do’s and Don’ts – The Horse

Keep the feeding routine constant and introduce feed modifications gradually, as outlined in 22. In Keenan’s experience, “the most typical relationship with colic is a change in feed or hay mix within the previous two weeks.” When transitioning to a new food source, make the transition gradually over a period of at least 10 days. 23.Feed on a regular basis. Climate expert John Weatherly says that eating several little meals throughout the day is often better for the digestive tract than eating one or two large meals.

  1. DO NOT choose grain over forage as a food source.
  2. Horses who require grain include those that are underweight despite being fed high-quality hay on a 24-hour basis or those that have a particularly strenuous activity routine, according to the author.
  3. Warm water should be available in the winter and cool water should be available in the summer.
  4. It is possible to gradually increase the water until the horse would drink a whole bucket of water to reach a half-pound of grain, according to Keenan.
  5. 26.DO make time for frequent physical activity.
  6. This entails participation on a regular basis as well.
  7. 27.Maintain a parasite control regimen that has been authorized.

According to research, strategic parasite control is the most effective method; owners should consult with their veterinarians to develop a program based on fecal egg counts and pasture management.

DO take measures to decrease the amount of sand that is consumed.

If your horse has a tendency to rip his hay out of the container and eat it off the ground, consider putting mats around the container to prevent this.

For best results, Keenan recommends putting roughly two cups of manure in a gallon Ziploc bag and filling the bag halfway with water, then shaking it up until the manure is completely dissolved.

When you tap the bag, the sand will settle out at the lowest corner of the bag.

If you receive a negative result, repeat the test three or four more times over the course of three days to be sure.” 30.If your horse has a sand load, Keenan recommends that you administer psyllium products in accordance with your veterinarian’s instructions.

If your horse has colic in the past, you should consider changing your management style.

“An example might be a change in feed or shelter.” According to Keenan, 32.DO considergastric ulcer prevention measures for extremely stressed horses or performance horses, as directed by your veterinarian.

33.Consider purchasing significant medical insurance for your horse (as opposed to merely surgical insurance) to cover the price of sophisticated medical and surgical care.

Multiple smaller meals are often preferable than one or two large meals when it comes to the digestive tract. Dr. Amy Plummer Weatherly is a neurologist who specializes in pain management.

The Cost of Colic

There is little denying that colic surgery is a pricey procedure. According to the clinic, a basic, complication-free surgery can cost around $5,000, whereas an extensive resection (removing part of the intestine), for example, can cost twice that amount. Maintain an open line of communication with your veterinarian and maintain a realistic outlook in order to avoid wallowing in self-pity over the money you’re incurring. “What we do is motivated by a desire to save as many people as possible.

ACVS, ACVECC, associate professor of emergency medicine and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center, which is located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

“If you can’t spend a thousand dollars for a nonsurgery hospital stay, it’s appropriate to say so,” Southwood adds.

— Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

What is colic? – Equine Hospital

Horses suffering from colic have abdominal (belly) pain, which is mainly caused by issues with the gastrointestinal tract. Colic is a phrase used to describe this ailment. It is estimated that there are about 70 distinct types of digestive issues that can induce colic symptoms, ranging from moderate to severe (and even life-threatening) in severity. While it’s true that colic is one of the most prevalent causes of death in horses, the outlook is much better now than it was in the past. Improved methods of diagnosing and treating colic, enhanced anaesthetic medicines and monitoring, and improved surgical procedures are all contributing to this progress.

What causes colic pain in horses?

Horses, like people, are relatively sensitive to anything that causes pain in the intestines, such as parasites. Intestinal spasms (cramp), the gut wall being stretched by gas or feed material, the blood supply to part of the gut being cut off, or the intestine being caught (entrapped) in an odd location are all possible causes. There are also non-intestinal illnesses, such as laminitis, bladder stones, and ovarian issues, that can present with symptoms that are similar to those of colic. This is referred to as ‘fake colic,’ although it can still be quite dangerous.

What are the symptoms of colic in horses?

Horses will generally exhibit any or all of the following characteristics:-

In mild cases:

  • Lip curling, flank watching, restlessness, and pawing the ground are all signs of impending doom.

In moderate cases:

  • Posing as if one has to urinate regularly
  • Being able to lie down and get back up
  • Lie down on their side for extended periods of time

In severe cases:-

  • Violent rolling
  • Sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Injuries to the body and face as a result of thrashing around and rolling around in circles

What should you do if you suspect colic?

Celiac disease is a potentially life-threatening condition. If a horse exhibits moderate or severe symptoms, he or she will require immediate veterinary attention and, if possible, referral to our facility for further treatment.

You should stroll your horse about (do not canter or trot) for no more than 10 minutes if your horse is showing minor symptoms of colic. If the symptoms linger for more than 30 minutes or become more severe in the wild, contact your veterinarian right once.

If you think your horse is showing signs of colic please contact your veterinary surgeon.

Dr. Jennifer Coates reviewed and updated this page on December 20, 2019 to ensure correctness. DVMColic is a digestive system condition affecting horses that is rather prevalent. However, the term “colic” merely refers to “abdominal discomfort,” which can be caused by a variety of factors and treated in a variety of ways. The severity of colic might also vary substantially. If a horse experiences a moderate attack of belly pain that is treated with a single dosage of medicine, this is an illustration of what I mean.

When it comes to horses, any signs of colic should be taken seriously as an emergency situation.

Symptoms of Horse Colic

Despite the fact that there are many different types of equine colic, the majority of horses exhibit some combination of the following symptoms:

  • The following behaviors are common: anxiety or sadness
  • Pawing at the ground
  • Looking at their flank
  • Rolling or trying to lie down
  • Lack of or infrequent feces
  • And pacing. Appetite and water consumption are both low. Excessive perspiration
  • Atypically rapid heart rate (more than 50 beats per minute)
  • Lack of regular gastrointestinal sounds
  • Lack of normal gut sounds Stretching out as if to go to the bathroom

Causes of Colic in Horses

Because there are several causes of colic in horses, doctors will concentrate their efforts on attempting to categorize the kind of colic a horse is experiencing rather than finding a single cause. It is likely that a more specific diagnosis may be required in the event that the horse does not react to first therapy. Colic can be induced by a variety of factors, including:

  • Gas – An excessive buildup of gas causes the intestines to expand, resulting in discomfort. Impaction or obstruction – Fecal material becomes hard and difficult to pass as a result of dehydration, the presence of high numbers of worms, the intake of sand, and other factors. Strangulation is a condition in which the intestines spin or become ensnared, preventing the passage of food and wastes as well as the flow of blood
  • Infarction is defined as a lack of blood flow to the gut, which results in tissue death. Peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal cavity) can be caused by infectious infections or other ailments, such as gastroenteritis or colitis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal system). Ulcers are erosions of the lining of the gastrointestinal system that can cause discomfort and impair the function of the gastrointestinal tract.


You should become familiar with the signs and symptoms of colic so that you can recognize the problem early. Learn how to take your horse’s vital signs (temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and mucous membrane color) so that you may pass along this crucial information to your veterinarian while they’re on their way to meet you and your horse. Purchase a stethoscope to keep in your emergency bag so that you can listen for signs of stomach distress. Examine your horse on a regular basis when he is in good health so that you can see problems more quickly should they arise.

Assessing the Cause and Severity of a Horse’s Colic

As part of a comprehensive physical examination, the veterinarian will first evaluate the horse’s pulse, temperature, respiration rate, mucous membrane color, and stomach sounds, among other things. Your veterinarian will ask you comprehensive questions about the horse’s recent behavior, food, exercise level, and other factors. The veterinarian may provide drugs to the horse in order to reduce discomfort and offer drowsiness. Additionally, it will make the animal more comfortable and make it safer to do additional diagnostics on the horse.

It is also possible to determine the volume and quality of feces present in the rectum.

In this procedure, a long, flexible plastic tube is passed through the horse’s nose and down the esophagus, ending up in the stomach.

On rare occasions, a veterinarian may conduct an abdominocentesis (belly tap) on a horse in order to collect and evaluate fluid that has collected in the abdominal cavity of the animal.

Treatment of Colic in Horses

Different types of therapy will be required depending on the type of colic that a horse is suffering from. Analgesics such as flunixin meglumine (Banamine), detomidine, or xylazine are used almost exclusively in the treatment of colic to assist manage the gastrointestinal discomfort, which can be extremely severe. Due to the fact that horses almost never vomit, a nasogastric tube may be used to alleviate pressure in the stomach and provide a route for gas and fluids to escape the stomach. If the horse is dehydrated or in shock, intravenous fluids may be essential.

  • To assist in loosening and dislodging the impaction, mineral oil or another form of lubricant or laxative is typically used.
  • In some situations of colic, such as when the veterinarian feels that there is a twist in a loop of intestine, surgery may be necessary to relieve the pain.
  • The vast majority of colic illnesses may be managed on the farm with medical assistance.
  • Following healing, gradually return your horse to work while keeping a close eye out for any recurrence of belly discomfort symptoms.

Prevention of Colic in Horses

A horse will occasionally suffer from colic for no obvious cause. In such circumstances, the greatest protection is to become familiar with your horse’s behaviors so that you can recognize when he is experiencing colic in the future. Preventative measures include the following, which you should consider implementing:

  • Check on your horse often to ensure that he has access to fresh, clean water. Horses are particularly prone to impaction colic during the cold months. They do not enjoy drinking ice cold water, and the water in the trough might be frozen, preventing the horse from having access to the water supply. If you live in a chilly region, ensure sure there is no ice formation in your water buckets on a regular basis, or consider installing water heaters. Provide your horse with enough roughage in his diet, such as pasture or hay, to ensure that he remains healthy. This component of a horse’s normal diet offers the bulk necessary for optimal gastrointestinal motility. Feeding grain and/or pellets should be limited to the maximum degree practicable. Make sure your horse receives regular dental examinations to ensure that he does not have any sharp edges or missing teeth that might hinder him from properly grinding his food. Consult your physician for the most effective method of controlling intestinal parasites. Slowly acclimatize your horse to rich pastures throughout the spring months. Do not allow him out to feed on fresh spring grass on a full-time basis all at once
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The image used for the header is from iStock.com/ejesposito.

What to Do If Your Horse Colics

Colic is not often a circumstance in which one should “wait and see.” It is critical to receive immediate care and treatment. It is possible that a colic may be light and will go away on its own, but some colics are signs of a more serious issue that will require veterinarian attention. Here’s how to deal with the majority of cases of colic. However, if your horse appears to be in difficulty, such as rolling and thrashing or appearing to be in agony, the first action should be to contact your veterinarian for assistance.


Evaluate the severity of the colic symptoms. Whether your horse is suffering from mild colic and appears to be in discomfort, is chewing at his flanks, or is standing extended, keep an eye on him and see if the colic subsides after approximately 30 minutes. Look for evidence of diarrhea or a lack of excrement, as well as signs of strange behavior such as crushed bedding, which may suggest that the horse was attempting to roll in his stall, sweating, trembling, or any other unusual activity.

Following a diagnosis of severe colic, remove any foodstuffs from the stall, as well as any bedding that may have been used. It is normally fine to leave water out, even though it is doubtful that a sick horse will drink in any case.

Try Motion

‘Belly lifts,’ hand walking, and lunging are all possibilities as long as the horse remains relaxed. A few minutes of trotting may be beneficial, but only for a short period of time. Don’t put him to sleep. If he appears to be feeling better, feed him a small amount of food. It’s possible that he’ll be better after eating, but keep a check on him for at least several hours later. You should see a return to normalcy in your horse within a short period of time, including the production of a decent volume of dung.

Moving about might help to ease mild impaction colic or gassiness.

This could be beneficial for mild colic.

After 30 Minutes

If moderate colic symptoms do not subside within approximately a half hour, contact your veterinarian. Make a note of any changes in feed, medications or de-wormers provided, changes in habit, or anything else that comes to mind that might have provoked the colic episode. Consider how much manure he has generated as well as the consistency of his manure. If it’s runny, or if it’s really dry, it’s crucial to take notice of anything unusual about it. This may make it easier to determine the source of the colic and expedite the treatment process overall.

Rolling horses who are wrapped in blankets have a greater probability of being entangled in the straps.

Safety First

If the horse is thrashing wildly, take precautions to ensure your personal safety first. Your first inclination will be to attempt to calm your horse, but a horse in great agony can become completely oblivious to everything, including a known and respected handler who is trying to comfort him. Call the veterinarian as soon as possible. The idea that vigorously rolling and thrashing might result in a twisted belly has been around for a long time. However, it has not been determined if this is correct or not.

Walking your horse has traditionally been recommended for colic treatment, but if your horse is already exhausted from thrashing and rolling, walking may just add to his exhaustion.

It is likely that stopping a horse from rolling will be almost difficult (and perhaps harmful).

Use Medications With Caution

If you keep prescription medications in your first aid kit, such as muscle relaxants for spasmodic colic, use extreme caution when administering them. When you mistreat a horse, you may end up doing more harm than good. When colic is caused by a twisted or telescoped gut, it is critical to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. Don’t offer your horse anything that might hide the symptoms of an illness. If you have any reason to believe your pet is unwell, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Always consult your veterinarian for health-related inquiries, since they have evaluated your pet and are familiar with the pet’s medical history, and they can provide the most appropriate suggestions for your pet.

What to do if Your Horse is Colicking

Dr. Lydia Gray contributed to this article. Colic, often known as stomach pain in horses, can range from a short-lived, minor bellyache that often goes unnoticed to severe, unremitting discomfort that may or may not be correctable even with surgery, depending on the severity of the problem. It is critical for all horse owners to be aware of what to do if their horse colics, what NOT to do, and what to anticipate if and when a veterinarian is called.

What you SHOULD do if your horse colics:

If you see any indications of colic in your horse, remove all food from the horse and confine him to a safe area. Take any vital signs you can safely collect and contact your veterinarian. The following information will be extremely beneficial to your veterinarian in deciding whether or not your horse requires treatment and in advising you on what to do in the meantime:

  • Specific indications and symptoms of colic, as well as their severity Pulse or heart rate (in beats per minute)
  • Respiratory rate (in breaths per minute)
  • And Body temperature (in degrees Celsius). Temperature of the rectal cavity
  • Gum color (white, pale pink, dark pink, crimson, or bluish-purple)
  • The color of the gums The moistness of the gums (whether they are moist, sticky, or dry)
  • Time for capillary refill
  • If there are any digestive noises, record them. Consistency and frequency of bowel movements
  • Color and consistency of bowel movements Management, eating, or exercise regimens that have changed recently
  • Information about your medical history, including deworming and previous instances of colic
  • Breeding history and pregnancy status are also required. The horse’s insurance status is unknown.

What you should NOT do if your horse colics:

Consider yourself relieved of the responsibility of walking or maintaining the standing of your horse. Rolling horses twist their intestines, according to popular belief, but this is simply not the case. While some handwalking is acceptable (and even beneficial), peacefully resting until the veterinarian comes is also acceptable. Also, unless your veterinarian has specifically instructed you to do so, do not provide anything by mouth or by injection. Some drugs might conceal indicators, so when your veterinarian comes out, your horse may appear to be momentarily better, but as soon as he or she departs, your horse begins to exhibit signs once more.

Finally, you don’t want to take the chance of misadministering anything by any means.

Even if you are comfortable administering an IM or IV injection to a calm horse, it might be more difficult on a frenzied horse.

What to expect if and when the vet comes for colic

Depending on how painful your horse is, your veterinarian may begin treating him right away or may begin by going over some information with you. Prepare to provide an accurate history (including your feeding program, your horse’s usual exercise and turnout routine, your deworming and vaccination programs, any recent travel or other changes, and any recent travel or other changes) as well as to review your recent observations with the veterinarian. Once your veterinarian has completed his or her own physical examination, which may involve a rectal palpation, the placement of an endoscope, the placement of a stomach tube, a “belly tap,” which is collecting fluid from the abdominal cavity, taking blood, and other procedures.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to determining whether a horse’s colic can be resolved medically or whether surgery is required, but a high heart rate, pain that is not relieved by medication or that returns quickly, and palpating a twist or displacement rectally are all indications that surgery is likely to be required.

More information about colic may be found in our page on Equine Colic and Digestive Health.

SmartPak strongly advises you to speak with your veterinarian if you have any particular queries about your horse’s health or welfare. This material is not designed to diagnose or treat any ailment; rather, it is intended to be merely informative.

Colic In Horses: Types of Colic, Potential Causes, & Reducing Risk

When it comes to horses, colic is the most common medical cause of death. Although technically speaking, colic refers to pain in the horse’s belly, most colic episodes are caused by problems affecting the colon. The causes of colic can range from a simple obstruction to a spasm in the colon caused by gas accumulation, or torsions in the digestive tract. However, the vast majority of colic episodes are idiopathic, which means they have no recognized cause. In other words, in the vast majority of situations, we have no idea what is causing a horse to colic.

Some types of colic in horses include:

There has been no determination of the primary cause. Approximately 80% of all colic cases are caused by this. This includes the following:

Gas (spasmodic)

Increased fluid or gas in the digestive system of a horse is generally produced by over-fermentation of food in the hindgut. This fluid or gas causes the horse to become dehydrated. The horse has discomfort as a result of the pressure and probable inflammation that develops along the gastrointestinal tract.


The collection of sand, mud, feed, or other indigestible material in a horse’s colon as a result of the horse’s inability to digest it. Because of the obstruction, it is difficult or impossible for a horse to properly dispose of its excrement.


The root cause has been identified. These are some examples:


In addition to being most commonly caused by tapeworms and other parasites, this is also a particularly hazardous kind of colic in which the intestine essentially slides like a telescope into a piece of its own body. It is also possible to cut off the blood flow, resulting in a blockage.

Gastric rupture

A gastric rupture can occur when an impaction enters the horse’s stomach or when gas build-up causes the horse’s stomach to inflate, both of which are very unusual occurrences.


Equine colic is one of the most deadly types of animal colic. A twist in a horse’s colon or small intestine that may also result in the horse’s blood supply being cut off, resulting in necrotic tissue.

Feeding and Management Can Induce Colic in Horses

The natural diet of a horse consists of grass, leaves, and bark; nevertheless, in order for horses to meet the performance requirements of today’s society, they are frequently fed processed grains and sweet feeds that are heavy in carbs. In some cases, this might result in hindgut acidosis, which is characterized by a decreased pH in the colon and cecum. A greater amount of acidity results, which might alter the delicate bacteria equilibrium in the hindut and perhaps harm the mucosal lining of the colon.

It is possible that tissue will die, leading in food obstructions and caused colic in the future.

It has been established, however, that feeding horses grain high in simple carbohydrates is associated with the development of colic-like symptoms in some instances. Veterinarians may learn more about this research by registering or logging into the SUCCEED Veterinary Center website.

Reduce the Risk for Horses to Colic

Colic is becoming increasingly common in barns as a result of current techniques in feeding and caring for horses. However, induced occurrences of colic in horses can be avoided by addressing the underlying reasons. Among the steps you may take are the following:

  • Allowing carbohydrates to breakdown before reaching the horse hindgut, which prevents acidosis in the hindgut, smaller but more frequent meals should be provided. Increase turnout, reduce feed concentrates, and increase the amount of high-quality pasture fed. Slow down your horse’s food intake by include chaff (chopped hay) in his meals to help lower his risk of colic
  • Give your animals additional digestive assistance, such as a feed supplement that contains polyunsoluble lipids, beta glucan, nucleotides and yeast, to help them stay healthy on their own.
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While many of these more natural equine management strategies may be impractical owing to time and budget restrictions, any change to your horse’s feed system might help him function at his peak performance.

Take this short survey to assess your horse’s digestive health.

Visit the Crusade Against Equine Colic for additional information on the many forms of colic, how colic is produced, how to recognize early indicators, and feeding and management advice for lowering the risk of colic.

Horse colic prevention and management

When someone complains of stomach discomfort, they are referred to as having colic. This can suggest a problem with the intestines or with other organs within the abdomen. Numerous factors might contribute to this condition, from simple indigestion to an inflamed colon. A horse’s chance of acquiring it can be decreased but not eliminated by following basic management measures. Prevention is crucial, and by following simple management techniques, the danger of getting it can be reduced but not eliminated.

Signs of colic in horses

The following signs and symptoms may be displayed by a horse suffering from colic, in addition to the general changes in behavior:

  • There is a lot of pawing at the ground and restlessness. Sweating and increased respiratory rate are common symptoms. A kick to the stomach irritates the recipient. Stretching as if to go to the bathroom
  • Attempting to roll or rolling while attempting to roll
  • Heart rate that is too fast

Why is colic so common in horses?

It is believed that horses developed on a diet that differs from the one that is currently required of them. Horses’ eating habits, as well as the amount of time they spend eating, have evolved dramatically throughout the years — even a horse who lives on grass now consumes a diet that is much different from that of his forefathers. In the case of the domesticated horse, however, his intestines have not developed to accommodate these alterations, making him more prone to stomach discomfort. A horse’s digestion is characterized by fermentation, which produces gas as a by-product, which can easily distend the stomach and cause complications.

The horse’s stomach has a wide absorptive region (which is necessary because the animal is a herbivore), which makes it susceptible to poisons being absorbed fast.

This is referred to as “trickle feeding,” in which the horse consumes vast amounts of low-energy food throughout the day, generally spending 16 hours a day eating.

This is plainly diametrically opposed to the life that the horse was intended to lead.

Risk factors of colic

  • Dental difficulties, worm infestations, and gut injury (including past colic surgery) are all examples of digestive disorders. Poor feeding regime, including filthy food, insufficient quantity, a lack of fiber and/or water, or a rapid change in diet are all possibilities. Stress can be caused by a variety of factors, including strenuous exercise when unfit or after eating, travel, and a rapid change in habit or surroundings. The pasture is poor and overgrazed, especially if the soil is sandy

Colic prevention

  • The provision of a steady supply of fresh water
  • The administration of small and frequent feeds of concentrates, if necessary Hard feed should only be used as a supplement to the grazing and high-fiber meals that the horse has access to. Plan a diet with a high fiber content, incorporating hay or other high-fiber equivalent meals into the mix. The ratio should be at least 60% hay or similar. Ascertain that the feed is of high quality, is not moldy, and does not include any hidden risks like as baling rope or plastic. Establish a regular exercise routine for the horse, ensuring that it is physically fit for the task required. Do not suddenly place too much pressure on your horse. After your workout, take some time to cool down. Make any modifications to your workout or feeding schedule gradually
  • As much turnout as feasible should be provided in a paddock. Maintain frequent dental examinations since poorly chewed food raises the likelihood of an intestinal obstruction. Keep pastures from becoming overgrazed. Ration rich spring grass to the horse, treating it as though it were a change of diet
  • Avoid letting your horse graze in a severely sandy pasture if at all feasible. Ensure that the worm control regimen is kept up to date in accordance with your veterinarian’s recommendations. Maintain a consistent daily schedule and introduce adjustments gradually

Helpful hints

It is important to recognize your horse’s signals of excellent health so that you may diagnose colic as soon as possible and have a satisfactory outcome.

Keep an eye on your body’s temperature, pulse rate, and respiration rate. If your horse has a history of colic, you should be extra cautious with him.

What to do if your horse has colic

In the event of a collapsed animal, it is necessary to call the veterinarian immediately. If your horse exhibits any of the symptoms listed above (that are not typical), contact your veterinarian. If you are aware of your horse’s usual pulse, temperature, and breathing rate, you may alert the veterinarian if any of these parameters change.

  • Remove the horse’s grain and hay from the stable
  • Verify that the horse is in a secure environment that is free of risks
  • You should keep an eye on your horse even if he is acting nervous, rolling, or restless, as long as he is in a secure place, such as a big barn or corral
  • But, you should not intervene. If the symptoms are minor, walking slowly may be beneficial
  • Nevertheless, always follow your veterinarian’s instructions and avoid putting yourself or the horse in danger of damage.

Treatment of colic in horses

In the event of mild episodes of colic, the veterinarian may prescribe medications to reduce discomfort and calm the horse, which may allow the gut to begin functioning normally again. Keep track of your horse’s progress and notify your veterinarian if anything changes. When a horse’s condition becomes more serious and does not respond to early pharmacological therapy, your veterinarian may propose surgery, which would require transferring the horse to a nearby equine hospital. For horses that have a history of colic, it is especially important to pay close attention to every aspect of their routine and care.

While waiting for the vet

Maintain as much calm and quiet as possible for the horse, keep an eye on the signals, and do not offer the horse anything to eat or drink. Verify that the animal hasn’t been wormed recently and that nothing unusual has been consumed previous to the beginning of symptoms. Worms are responsible for a considerable proportion of colic cases, either directly or indirectly through their presence. Routine worming, as well as monitoring the effectiveness of the worming program, are critical components of excellent management.

Sensible management and attention for the horse’s requirements can assist to reduce this stress level and prevent related health concerns.

Horses with choke

Choke in horses can cause symptoms that are comparable to colic in humans. Choking occurs when an item (typically a piece of food) becomes lodged in the horse’s oesophagus and causes the horse to choke. Equine discomfort manifests itself in the form of a stiff neck and drooling saliva, as well as food and mucus from the nose and mouth. In severe cases, horses might die. Often, a choke will clear itself on its own, but you should consult a veterinarian for guidance. When symptoms first appear, keep an eye on the horse and, if the symptoms persist for more than half an hour, contact a veterinary surgeon for assistance.

Ensure that there is a proper amount of chaff provided to the feed as this will prevent the feed from bolting, which can result in choking.

Colic in Horses

The term “ACVS Diplomate” refers to a veterinarian who has received board certification in veterinary surgery from the American College of Veterinary Surgery. Only veterinarians who have successfully completed the certification requirements of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) are entitled to use the title “specialist in veterinary surgery.” Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (DACVS) are the only ones who have earned the right to use the title “specialist in veterinary surgery.” Your board-certified veterinary surgeon from the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) completed a three-year residency program, met specified training and caseload criteria, conducted research, and had that study published.

This procedure was overseen by ACVS Diplomates, who ensured that the training was consistent and that the high standards were adhered to.

It was only after that that your veterinary surgeon was awarded the ACVS Diplomate designation.

Pain symptoms can range from moderate (looking at the flank, elevating the top lip, showing little interest in feeding, kicking the rear legs up towards the abdomen) to severe (kicking the hind legs up towards the belly) (repeatedly laying down and getting up, violently rolling up onto their backs or throwing themselves down on the ground).

The majority of horses suffering from colic may be managed medically, but some may require surgical treatment.

If therapy is delayed, the outlook for survival might deteriorate. Symptoms and signs include: The clinical indications of colic are dependent on the source of the colic as well as the personality of the horse.

  • Anxiety, depression, and inappetence (not interested in food). Pawing at the flank
  • Looking at the flank Lie down for longer periods of time than usual or at a different time than usual (Figure 1)
  • The act of lying down, rising up, circling, and then laying down again and again
  • Using the top lip to curl or raise
  • Kicking up with the hind legs at the abdomen
  • Rolling up onto the back
  • Etc. Figure 2 depicts a person stretching out. (Figure 3) Dog-sitting services
  • Groaning
  • sSweating
  • A faster than usual heart rate (the typical range is 28–44 beats per minute)
  • Abdominal distention that is visible (the look of being swollen)
  • Manure output is lower than usual or non-existent. Foals may roll up on their backs, grind their teeth, and salivate excessively if they are experiencing diarrhea.

Testing and evaluation: Your veterinarian will ask you a series of questions and do a physical examination on you.

  • Examples of questions include: recent travel, changes in feed or habit, medications, prior instances of colic, deworming/vaccination schedule, and other related topics. The following may be included in a physical examination: A veterinarian should be consulted immediately if the horse’s heart rate, respiratory rate, rectal temperature, abnormal color of mucous membranes (gums
  • Figure 4 shows gums that are too dark—this horse should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately), skin turgor, digital pulses of the hooves, abdominal distention are observed.

Following that, depending on the results of the first physical examination, your veterinarian may decide to do some or all of the following procedures:

  • Routine procedures include: inserting a nasogastric tube to check for reflux (absorption of fluid in the stomach)
  • Rectal examination
  • Blood tests
  • And other procedures. Figure 5: Abdominocentesis is the procedure of taking a sample of the fluid that surrounds the intestines from the abdomen (abdominal centesis). The abdomen is examined using ultrasound technology. Gastroscopy is used to check for ulcers in the stomach. Radiographs to check for sand or enteroliths (this is only recommended in certain instances)

Treatment: Medical therapy often consists of the following procedures:

  • Intravenous analgesia (Banamine or sedative) is administered. A naogastric tube is used to inject laxative medications directly into the stomach. These include mineral oils and magnesia sulfate/Epsom salts. Rehydration with oral or IV fluids is recommended.

The vast majority of horses suffering from colic will react to medical intervention. As long as the horse appears to be in discomfort, it is recommended that you have your veterinarian examine him again as away and consider referring the animal to a surgical institution. Surgical treatment should be considered if the horse continues to be uncomfortable and exhibits the above-mentioned signs of colic despite medical treatment, or if your veterinarian discovers specific indicators during a medical workup that would indicate a surgical problem that needs to be addressed.

Surgical colic can be caused by a variety of factors that can be remedied; nevertheless, there are some causes of colic that, even the most vigorous surgical approach and treatment, are not guaranteed to survive.

The success rates of surgical procedures have increased considerably over the years, owing to early referral and timely surgical intervention.

Feeding will be resumed gradually when the colic indications have subsided, in accordance with your veterinarian’s instructions.

Hospitalization for 5–7 days is normal for horses who have had surgical colic treatment.

Specific post-operative advice will vary depending on the surgical diagnosis, the postoperative healing process, the behavior of your horse, the stabling/turnout facilities, and a variety of other variables.

The prognosis for a horse with colic varies widely depending on the origin of the colic, how systemically affected the horse was at the time of operation, and whether or not there were any postoperative problems.

This Animal Health Topic was produced by Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and evaluated by Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons Any thoughts expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, nor do they represent the official viewpoint of the organization.

For further information on this subject, the American College of Veterinary Surgeons suggests that you speak with an ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon or your general veterinarian. To locate an ACVS Diplomate, go to the website.

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