What Causes A Horse To Colic? (Question)

Colic 101. The term “colic” refers to abdominal pain rather than a specific disorder. Conditions that commonly cause colic include gas, impaction, grain overload, sand ingestion, and parasite infection. “Any horse has the ability to experience colic,” states Dr.

What causes colic in horses?

  • Common Causes of Colic. The distress that a horse is in while it colics indicates that there is something going wrong with the digestive system. Here are some common reasons your horse may be exhibiting colic symptoms. changes in feed, an accumulation of sand in the caecum is called sand colic. ingesting fungus from moldy hay.

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.

How do you prevent colic in horses?

These measures should reduce colic risk, but don’t guarantee to eliminate it.

  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.

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%).

Can too much hay cause colic?

A change in the type of hay may cause colic for many reasons. Hay of poor quality is often less digestible, predisposing to impaction. Changing types of hay as in alfalfa and bermuda, may be related to colonic pH changes resulting from calcium differences in the two hays.

What should I feed my horse prone to colic?

Feed a high-fibre, low-energy ration, which includes cooked soya. This is non-heating, but should maintain weight and add top line. Slowly increase to 3kg a day. Alternatively, feed 2kg of high-fibre cubes and add up to 2kg of a conditioning ration, preferably cubes, which tend to contain less starch than mixes.

Do horses with colic poop?

Colicing horses can poop, but lack of poop can be a symptom of colic. I know, this sounds very confusing. The reason some colicing horses poop is because not all colics result in a blockage of the intestines. There are many different types of colic in horses.

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.

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 does it take a horse to get over colic?

After a successful colic surgery, some horses make a quick and routine recovery and return to their homes within five days to a week. But for others, this recovery process can be a challenging ride full of ups and downs, needing several days of intensive medical care and intravenous fluids.

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.

Should you let a horse with colic roll?

Create a safe area Take out any buckets or any other objects the horse may injure themselves on in the stable and leave them quietly until your vet arrives and can give them a sedative/painkiller. Allowing the horse to lie down and/or roll does not make colic worse or cause a twisted gut.

Can a horse colic on grass?

Grass colic is a type of spasmodic colic caused by gas buildup in the intestinal tract. It can occur when a horse ingests too much grass to which he is unaccustomed. A horse is at risk of colic whenever his diet suddenly changes, whether the change is to grass, grain or another unaccustomed feed.

Can Straw make a horse colic?

If horses eat a large volume of straw, this lignin fiber accumulates in the digestive system and it can plug (impact) the digestive system. This results in severe colic and even death if not properly treated.

Can horses colic on fresh grass?

Too much forage, especially in the form of fresh grass, might cause colic or other metabolic problems. Especially in the spring but also after periods of rain in the fall, lush grass provides a high carbohydrate level that may exceed the digestive capability of the intestinal tract.

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.

  • PREVENTION AND TREATMENT OF EQUINE COLIC: CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS Adapted from the My Horse University’s Online Equine Nutrition Course. Complaining of Colic: What to Do If You Have It However, horse owners commonly refer to colic as difficulties with the gastro-intestinal system. Colic is defined as any belly pain, regardless of the cause. However, while there are multiple causes of colic in horses, the majority of them are associated with the structure and microbiology of the horse’s gastrointestinal system. The following are some of the most prevalent causes of colic.

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

Excessive gas can be created by bacteria in the intestines after a big amount of grain or moldy feed is consumed by a livestock animal.

Spasmodic colic is characterized by painful spasms of the smooth muscle of the intestines (spasmodic contractions).

Excessive excitation might result in spasmodic colic.

Horses suffering from enteritis may also experience diarrhea.

Treatment Identifying the source of colic is critical to providing the most effective therapy and allowing the problem to be rectified.

As a result, be important to have a veterinarian assess your horse as soon as possible after seeing any of these symptoms.

Many cases of colic can be adequately managed with medicine, but others, including severe impactions or twists, may necessitate prompt surgical intervention to relieve the pain. You should do the following while you are waiting for your veterinarian:

  • 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: 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.

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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.

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.

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.

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 can help him operate at his peak performance level.

Colic in your horse

Colic is a painful sign that something is wrong with your horse’s stomach. Due to the fact that colic is usually unforeseen and frequently unpreventable, it is a significant source of anxiety among horse owners. Horses are predisposed to colic by nature. Fortunately, medication on the farm is effective in treating more than 80 percent of colic types.

Signs of colic in your horse

A colicky horse is likely to bite at its side and roll when it is upset.

  • Frequently gazing to one side
  • Biting or kicking their flank or tummy
  • And so forth. Lieting down and/or rolling around in bed
  • There is little or no manure flowing
  • Fecal pellets that are smaller than normal
  • Manure that is dry or mucus (slime)-covered is passed
  • If they have poor feeding habits, they may not consume all of their grain or hay. Change in one’s drinking pattern
  • A heart rate of 45 to 50 beats per minute or above
  • Gums that stick to your teeth
  • Capillary replenishment time is prolonged. Mucous membranes that are discolored

Caring for the colicky horse

It is a major source of anxiety for horse owners due to the fact that colic is often unanticipated and frequently unpreventable.| Each colic is a one-of-a-kind experience. You should strive to achieve a healthy balance between the components involved in your horse’s care, food, and activity. To come up with the best strategy for your horse, consult with your veterinarian and barn management (if your horse is boarding). Revisit those plans at least once a year to see whether you need to make any adjustments owing to changes in activity, nutrition, sickness, or other circumstances.

However, there are some easy precautions you can take to ensure that your horse is at the lowest possible danger of developing colic.

Above all, strive to be a proactive business owner. Change the environment if your horse is at risk for colic because of an unwarranted scenario. These procedures should help to lower the risk of colic, but they do not ensure that it will be eliminated.

Always have fresh, clean water

According to the findings of the study, horses who were left without drink for one to two hours were at greater risk of colic. At least six years old, this risk rose by an order of magnitude. Horses prefer to drink from buckets rather than automated waterers, according to research. This preference is most likely related to the capacity to consume big volumes of liquid more rapidly with a single serving. Always make certain that automated waterers and other water sources have free flowing water during the winter months.

Hot water added to buckets twice a day, for a total of 24 hours, is as effective as continuous warm water.

When riding on longer journeys, make frequent stops to allow the horses to drink.

Allow pasture turnout

horses with access to two or three different pastures in the preceding month were at reduced risk of colic than horses that did not have pasture access in the previous month According to research, feeding from round bales increases the likelihood of colic. This rise may be related to a deterioration in round bale quality as a result of exposure to the elements and storage outside, the kind of hay used, and/or the consumption of particular types of hay without restriction. More information about pastures and hay may be found here.

Avoid feeding hay on the ground in sandy areas

Horses may consume enough sand to cause discomfort in their intestines or impair their motility. To lessen the amount of sand consumed, do the following:

  • Feed tubs or hay racks can be used. Rubber matting or catch pans should be placed below racks so that horses may consume scraps without ingesting sand.

Feed grain and pelleted feeds only when you need to

The risk of colic increases by 70% for every one-pound increase in whole grain or maize given to the animal. When compared to horses who are fed only hay,

  • Pelleted feeds resulted in a 6 to 9.5-fold increase in the risk of colic
  • Sweet feeds resulted in a 4 to 7.5-fold increase in the risk of colic.

More information on fundamental nutrition may be found in 10 things everyone should know about nutrition for the adult horse, which has a wealth of knowledge.

Watch horses carefully for colic following changes in exercise, stabling, or diet

Colic risk increases within two weeks of a change in diet or lifestyle. Colic is three times more common in farms that make more than four feed changes in a year compared to farms that make less than four feed changes in a year. Even a simple change in the batch of hay might increase the likelihood of colic developing. When feasible, make only moderate modifications to your food, your home, and your workout routine. To make feed adjustments, start by mixing one-fourth new feed with three-fourths old feed for around seven days, then progressively increase the percentage of new feed.

Float your horse’s teeth every six months

Floating the teeth of a horse. Floating your horse on a regular basis ensures that it eats its feed properly and completely. Floating is the process of smoothing down the sharp enamel points on the buccal and lingual surfaces. The buccal surface of the upper teeth is the cheek surface of the upper teeth. The lingual surface of the lower teeth corresponds to the surface of the tongue. Learn more about how to properly care for your horse’s teeth.

Control parasites

Colic is less likely to occur in horses that are wormed on a daily or frequent basis.

Find out more about horse deworming and parasites in this article.

Closely monitor and care for your horse as much as possible yourself

When horses are cared for by their owners, they are two to three times less likely to colic than when they are cared for by a stable manager or trainer. The fact that you’re familiar with your horse’s “normal” will enable you to notice minor signals or changes in behavior more quickly. Find out more about how to determine what is normal for your horse’s behavior.

Watch broodmares and horses that have colicked before

During the two months following foaling, you should keep a watchful eye on your broodmares. Keep an eye out for horses who have been sick or have colicked in the past. These horses are at increased risk of colic, and prompt treatment is essential.

Discuss your use of bute with a veterinarian

Bute (phenylbutazone) treatment can make horses more susceptible to some forms of colic and can mask early indicators of colic in some cases. Discuss the appropriate quantities of bute with your veterinarian, and avoid using huge amounts or taking it for an extended period of time.

Impaction colic

Impactions occur when feed material accumulates in a portion of the horse’s digestive tract (typically the colon) and the horse is unable to efficiently eliminate it from the body. A burning sensation develops as the gut wall strains and contracts violently in an attempt to force the feed into the colon. The following are examples of impaction-causing factors:

  • Feed that is coarse (poorly chewed)
  • Dry feed
  • Insufficient water intake
  • Dehydration Insufficiency of motility
  • A stumbling obstacle in the digestive tract

There are various narrow locations in the colon that are susceptible to impactions as a result of the folds and twists of the colon. Horses suffering from impactions are frequently in minor discomfort and off feed. It is possible that they will not grow any worse for several days.

Gas colic

Gas colic can develop when the microorganisms in the colon create excessive gas, which can be caused by dietary changes or feeds that have been excessively fermented. The gas causes mild to severe discomfort in the gut wall when it strains the wall. The majority of gas colics resolve on their own with little intervention. Gas colics, on the other hand, might cause the colon to migrate out of its natural position.

Colon shift

The horse’s lengthy colon might shift out of place from time to time. A phone cord may be twisted or flipped forward, hooked over the kidney, or twisted like a phone chord. This shift frequently results in impactions and gas buildup, both of which can result in more acute or protracted discomfort. A tight colon twist can cause serious injury or death to the colon by cutting off blood flow and oxygen supply to the colon. Large colon twists can cause significant discomfort and disease when toxins reach the gut wall through the twisting of the colon.

Poor blood supply to the gut

When horses get older, they are more likely to develop fatty tumors that wrap around the small intestine and reduce blood flow. Parasites can travel through the blood vessels, causing direct harm to the vessels as well as indirect damage to the intestines and other organs.

Poor motility

Colic may arise as a result of decreased motility.

The majority of the time, the cause of low motility is not known. Infections in the gastrointestinal tract or the abdominal cavity can cause decreased motility. These horses frequently fall ill as a result of poisons released from their guts.

How does poor motility cause problems?

Because of a disruption in the mechanism responsible for transporting feed through the digestive tract, food may become stuck even though the path is clear. In an attempt to move the food along, the gut will inject fluid to the small intestine to aid in the process. This fluid, on the other hand, is immobile. It is possible that the horse will get dehydrated and shocky if the gut continues to contribute fluid to the body. Over time, fluid will accumulate in the stomach and cause discomfort. Due to the fact that horses are unable to vomit up, the fluid expands the stomach and creates discomfort.

  • If there is insufficient motility in the colon, gas will accumulate, resulting in gas colic and perhaps displacement of the colon.
  • Walking with your horse might also assist to keep him from rolling.
  • If your horse likes to roll about a lot, it’s best to keep him in a large open space.
  • Avoid being in the way of your horse if it is thrashing violently.
  • Some kinds of colic are associated with a high temperature.
  • Diseases such as pleuritis, tying up, and laminitis can all present with symptoms that are similar to those of colic.
  • Pleuritis is a swelling of the chest cavity that may be felt by squeezing the ribs
  • It is caused by bacteria. When muscles become bloated or hard as a result of muscular stress, this is referred to as tying up. Laminitis, often known as founder, is characterized by heat and discomfort in the foot.

If walking the horse helps them feel better, you should do so generally. If the horse appears to be getting worse, or if you notice indicators of rib discomfort, foot pain, or muscular pain, you should stop walking. Never allow your horse or yourself to become exhausted while walking.

When to call the veterinarian

Mild, recently developed colic may be alleviated by just walking the horse without the assistance of a veterinarian. If you see any of the following symptoms, contact a veterinarian immediately:

  • Your horse has been acting strangely for some hours and you have noticed indicators of colic. You don’t know how long the horse has been exhibiting indications of colic
  • You don’t know how serious the situation is. There is significant colic present, and it does not better with walking. There are abnormal vital signs in the horse’s system
  • You may learn more about typical horse vital signs in “Basic first aid for your horse.”

Treating colic with the help of a veterinarian

  • Remove your horse’s feed in order to avoid more complications. Make a note of your horse’s vital signs and give them to your veterinarian if at all feasible. It is possible that your veterinarian will be able to identify the severity of the colic before you arrive. If it’s safe to do so, walk your horse to aid with motility and to keep him from rolling. Only walk if it relieves your horse’s discomfort, and never walk until you or your horse becomes exhausted.

Colic exams

The intensity and general kind of colic will be determined by your veterinarian when she or he comes at your home. It is rare to be able to determine the specific etiology of colic. However, your veterinarian can evaluate if the problem is caused by an impaction or gas colic, or whether it is caused by a damaged stomach or toxemia. Your horse’s heart condition will be evaluated by your veterinarian, who will look for symptoms of shock or toxemia. If your horse is in too much discomfort, your veterinarian may provide a short-acting analgesic/tranquilizer to alleviate the discomfort.

Nasogastric tube

After that, your veterinarian may insert a nasogastric tube into your stomach, depending on your situation. This little, lengthy tube connects the nose to the stomach. It is thin and long. A nasogastric tube is inserted into the stomach by your veterinarian to ensure that no fluid has accumulated there. This procedure can save a person’s life by preventing the stomach from bursting under a stressful situation. If there is only a little amount of fluid, your veterinarian can provide mineral oil, water, and/or additional laxatives through the tube.

Mineral oil and laxatives may be used to ease an impaction in your horse, and water may be used to rehydrate him. Both mineral oil and water have the ability to increase intestinal motility.

Rectal exam

With a rectal exam, your veterinarian will be able to palpate the posterior portion of the stomach. An impaction might be felt by your veterinarian from time to time. A rectal exam is usually a little dangerous since there is the possibility of injuring the rectum during the procedure. excrement can enter the abdominal cavity if the rectum is torn, resulting in serious health consequences. A sedative or twitch should be administered by a veterinarian during this examination. Not every incidence of colic necessitates a rectal examination.

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Belly tap

Depending on whether or not your veterinarian is concerned about infection or damage in the gut, he or she may attempt to collect fluid for testing by inserting a needle into the gut. The findings of the test can assist in determining whether or not the horse requires surgery. A belly tap, on the other hand, is normally reserved for situations in which there is a problem transporting the horse to a referral facility or when the colic lingers.

Other exams

If you bring your horse to an equine hospital, a veterinarian may do blood tests and other diagnostic procedures such as ultrasounds and radiography on the animal.

Follow-up treatment

Your veterinarian will most likely recommend that you refrain from feeding your horse grain or hay until the colic has resolved and the manure has been passed. An impaction may be exacerbated by the feed. Grazing on a tiny amount of fresh grass may aid in the stimulation of motility in the body. In order to improve motility, your veterinarian may also recommend that you walk your horse on a regular basis. The majority of patients will improve within a few hours of receiving this form of therapy.

Depending on the severity of the colic, your veterinarian may recommend that you take your horse to a horse hospital that is equipped for abdominal surgery.

  • It is more severe and needs more intense therapy. There is no resolution with on-farm therapy

Visiting the hospital for colic

Veterinarians may perform a number of tests on your horse to see how well it is responding to the veterinarian’s therapy. Veterinarians will next determine whether or not your horse requires surgery or whether or not he need ongoing therapy and close monitoring. The likelihood of a successful outcome following colic surgery varies depending on the type of gut involvement. When colic surgery is performed early and properly, horses have a long-term survival rate of more than 75% when they are treated properly.

An autopsy can be useful in diagnosing the etiology of colic in a deceased person.

The majority of colic episodes will be completely resolved with no long-term consequences.

  • Toxins enter the body through the abdominal cavity or the circulation. Colic surgery is required for your horse.

Toxin-caused problems

Toxins are carried by some microorganisms. A large number of these bacteria are generally present in the gastrointestinal tract.

Toxins in large quantities might overwhelm your horse’s typical defensive system. If your horse’s stomach becomes injured, toxins may begin to flow out. Both of these scenarios have the potential to make your horse unwell. The following are signs that your horse may be sick:

  • Suffering from shock (low blood flow resulting in an increased heart rate and cold limbs)
  • Gums that are red or reddish in color
  • Red lines around the teeth
  • Depression

Toxins can cause laminitis, blood clotting issues, and harm to other organs in horses and humans (e.g. kidneys). When a horse is under stress, it is possible that the immune system will deteriorate (e.g. from colic surgery). A compromised immune system is unable to maintain control over naturally occurring pathogens such as Salmonella. As a result, the horse becomes ill with diarrhea. This can be a severe case of colic that is both difficult and expensive to treat properly. Many horses get diarrhea as a result of intestinal disturbance, and they should be checked for salmonella.

Post-surgery problems

Horse colic surgery is performed. Following colic surgery, your horse will be closely monitored for signs of motility disturbances as well as infections of the incision site and belly cavity. Motility issues that arise following small intestine surgery can significantly increase the length of time spent in nursing care and hospitalization. Surgery also leaves horses at risk for developing intestinal adhesions. It’s possible that adhesions will cause the intestines to adhere together or to the body wall in an inappropriate posture.

  1. A higher success rate is shown with big colon issues compared to minor intestine disorders in the majority of cases.
  2. Horses have an intestinal tract that is specifically designed to digest forages.
  3. The rest of the gut is lengthy and highly specialized for processing the cellulose found in hays and other forages.
  4. Because of its length, the colon folds in on itself and loops around, resembling a folded extension cable or ribbon in appearance and functionality.
  5. Because the colon is not securely linked to the abdomen, it has the potential to being moved.
  6. In 2021, the situation will be reviewed.

Colic in Horses: Signs, Causes and Treatment

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. If you feel that your horse is suffering from colic symptoms, you should seek veterinarian treatment as soon as possible.

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.

Regarding medicines, nutrition, and exercise levels, adhere to your veterinarian’s advice. 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

The image used for the header is from iStock.com/ejesposito.

Colic In Horses

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

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.

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.

The horse is the species of domestic livestock that suffers from colic the most frequently, which is a word that refers to gastrointestinal pain in general. It is important for horse owners to be aware that colic is one of the top causes of mortality in horses, and they should take precautions to prevent it. There is a link between the structure and physiology of the horse’s digestive tract, as well as the management techniques that people impose on horses, and this disease’s incidence. Causes Colic can be caused by a variety of factors.

Besides violent spasms of the intestines (spasmodic colic), intestinal blockage (impaction colic), twisted bowels, or anything else that limits blood flow to a specific location of the intestine, there are other possible causes of colic (strangulating colic).

The following section contains information on the circumstances that might cause colic in horses. Parasites of the Intestine:

  • Affected by the migration of strongyle larvae, intestines suffer blood vessel damage that reduces their blood supply, resulting in necrosis, reduced motility, and discomfort. It is possible for a large number of roundworms to affect or clog the intestines. Certain species of tapeworm attach to the ileocecal valve, which can obstruct the passage of food to the cecum and result in impaction, which can result in telescoping of the small intestine into the cecum (intussusception), which can be fatal if not caught and surgically removed in time
  • Certain species of tapeworm attach to the ileocecal valve, which can obstruct the passage of food to the cecum and result in impaction, which can Colic may occur when the larvae of tiny strongyles move from the intestinal wall to the intestinal lumen
  • This migration is caused by the larvae of small strongyles. It is possible to induce intestinal blockage, colic, and even death while administering deworming drugs (anthleminitics), particularly to young horses that have become infected with ascarids (a form of roundworm that affects young horses).

Infections or other associated medical issues are also possible.

  • Endotoxemia can be caused by infections that occur outside of the digestive system, such as pneumonia, infections of the urinary tract, or any illness produced by Gram-negative bacteria. Endotoxemia can manifest itself as clinical indications of colic. Lipomas (fatty abdominal tumors) can obstruct blood supply to an intestinal loop, resulting in ischemia (death of the intestinal tissue affected) and colic in the infant. Locomotor system disorders like as laminitis and various kinds of lameness can also result in colic.

Diet and administration:

  • “Sand” colic, in which ingested sand obstructs the bowel, is a condition that horses are susceptible to develop when confined in sandy paddocks or overgrazed pastures. Ingestion of a foreign object by the horse can also cause obstruction
  • This is one of the reasons why it is necessary to maintain horse pastures and stables free of bailing wire, plastic bottles, and wraps, among other things. However, some horses may begin to play with an object, love the flavor, and then swallow it
  • This is common among horses who are selective eaters. Inappropriate fermentation or blockage in the gut caused by sudden changes in food (either kind or amount) or by giving too much grain at one time can cause colic in some animals and can be fatal. Equine grain intake should not exceed 0.5 percent of their body weight in a single meal for the health of the animal. Horses who are athletic performers and require a high concentration of nutrients may require feeding multiple times a day. Horses, being herbivores, require fiber in order to maintain healthy digestive function
  • Hence, a diet deficient in fiber will result in colic. Horses should ingest at least 1 percent of their body weight in fodder on a daily basis in order to maintain optimal digestive health. A high-grain diet will boost fermentation in the gut, which will increase the amount of gas accumulation, which may result in timpanic colic (excess gas in the stomach). In addition, horses with poor feeding habits (bolting, cribbing) are more susceptible to colic. It is possible to have impaction colic from hay picked too late, with too many stalks and insufficient leaves. In addition, a lack of water might cause impaction colic. Horses should have access to water at all times and in all seasons of the year, even the winter. When dealing with a “hot” horse (one that has been through a lot of hard work), avoid feeding it or allowing it to drink excessively. A heated horse may get colic, according to some theories, after consuming a large amount of cold water at once. Always allow your horse to cool down after activity, as this will allow the most amount of heat to evaporate and the maximum amount of lactic acid to be expelled. Keep the horse at a walk until its breathing returns to normal after an intense workout to cool it down. Colic is more common in stabled horses and horses who are unable to move freely, as opposed to pastured horses that may continue to walk around and enhance their digestive motility, which reduces the likelihood that they would get colic. Due to the increased amount of exercise (walking around) and the fact that they eat grass, which has a high water content and so goes through the digestive track more quickly, these pastured horses may also ingest a greater amount of water, which may help prevent impaction colic. In addition to this, by moving around, the gas that has accumulated in the digestive system will be more likely to be expelled.

Signs and Symptoms With moderate colic, a horse may paw at the ground with its front hooves, be restless, lie down, roll around repeatedly, and look at its gut for signs of discomfort. Alternatively, it may kick at its abdomen in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort. It is possible for a horse suffering from severe colic to roll and get cast. If your horse is suffering from severe colic, he or she will hurl herself to the ground and roll around. Unless appropriately sedated, these horses may be extremely dangerous to deal with.

When a horse is suffering from colic, there are no abdominal noises heard from him.

Diagnosis As soon as you see indications of colic in your horse, contact a veterinarian immediately.

While you are waiting for your veterinarian to come, here are some things you should keep an eye out for in order to be able to convey the necessary information to the doctor:

  • General state of health and behavior (calm, restless, alert, dull, apathetic, agitated)
  • The frequency of stomach discomfort (whether it is constant, intermittent, or nonexistent)
  • Normal, increasing, diminished, or missing abdominal sounds
  • The frequency of abdominal noises
  • Size of the abdomen (normal, decreased, or distended)
  • The nature of the peripheral pulse (whether it is normal or weak)
  • Capillary refill time is the amount of time it takes for gums to recover to their natural color once pressure is applied. There are other indications (sweating, cuts, and so on)
  • Taking in water
  • The presence of feces as well as the consistency and regularity of feces

We recommend that you get familiar with how to assess your horse’s vital signs so that when your veterinarian comes at your barn, he or she will already be thinking about the situation. The Cooperative Extension Service publicationEvaluating the Health of Your Horse provides further information on assessing vital signs (ID-179). Treatment In the past, a horse suffering from colic was walked to assist alleviate anxiety and avoid the rolling that can result in intestinal twisting. Walks may also aid in the restoration of normal intestinal function, the facilitation of defecation and/or the relief of pressure that has built up in the intestines in the horse.

Following a thorough examination, your veterinarian will be able to recommend a treatment plan based on the kind of colic present.

When it comes to moderate, intermittent colic, it is typically possible to treat it conservatively (medically), but a horse with a twisted intestine (torsion) requires surgical intervention.

  • Analgesics (pain relievers) supplied in mineral oil through a gastric tube to lubricate the intestinal system and function as a laxative to aid in the passage of fecal waste through the tract
  • Palpation of the rectum
  • IV fluids are administered through a vein.

Follow up with the horse after the initial treatment to ensure that everything is working well. Effluent and gastric discharge are both signs of health. If the horse’s condition does not improve after two hours, your veterinarian will be able to establish whether the colic is a medical or surgical issue, and he or she will also be able to advise you on the best course of action. Colic surgery is exceedingly expensive, and many times, the owners are unable to pay for the procedure. In such instances, merciful euthanasia may be the only option available to the horse in pain and suffering.

Control It is necessary to handle colic properly in order to prevent it. Avoiding conditions that predispose the horse to colic will almost certainly lessen the incidence of the condition. Consider the following actions that can be taken in the real world:

  • Overgrazing of pastures and paddocks is prohibited. Provide a safe, sufficient, and abundant source of fresh water on a daily basis
  • Feeding should be done on a regular daily basis
  • In the winter, when horses tend to drink less water, feeding them a mash might help to enhance their water consumption. Simply add warm water to their grain to make it palatable. It’s important to be aware that some horses will not eat mash. In an ideal situation, a horse will eat its mash meal within one hour, preventing fermentation in the feed bucket. If it does not complete eating within an hour, you may need to alter the amount of water or grain you are feeding it. Keep your horses out of your feed room and away from your feeding buckets and tubs. Feeding moldy or damaged grain or hay is not recommended. Make sure there is enough forage in the diet. Remove any foreign things from stables and paddock areas in order to prevent the horse from ingesting them. Consult with your veterinarian to develop an effective intestinal parasite management regimen. Ensure that your horses receive frequent turnout and exercise
  • And

Generally speaking, proper horse care will reduce the likelihood of your horse experiencing colic. If you notice any indications of colic, call your veterinarian right once. Version in PDF format that may be printed

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