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.

Horse colic surgery cost

  • Cost of Abdominal or Colic Surgery in Horses. The cost of abdominal surgery is high and can range from $8,000 to $12,000 or more. Cost depends on your location, distance to a clinic equipped to perform abdominal equine surgery, and the condition requiring surgical correction.

How much does it cost to treat a horse with colic?

All other medications will be adjusted depending on how the horse is responding. In terms of cost, this again depends upon the type of colic the horse is presenting with. Medical management of colic (non-surgical) may cost anywhere from $2,000 – $5,000 while surgical colic may cost anywhere from $4,000 – $10,000.

How successful is colic surgery?

Over the past 10 years, short-term survival rates after colic surgery (generally defined as survival to hospital discharge) have been reported to range from 32% to 100%, with an average around 80%.

What percentage of horses survive colic surgery?

Results: The long-term (>12 months) survival rate for 204 horses discharged after colic surgery and for which follow-up information was available was 84%. The most common complication after discharge was colic, affecting 35.1% of horses following a single laparotomy.

How much does a colic cost?

Colic surgery cost depends on the type of colic that is being treated. For example, a gas displacement colic is typically $3500 total cost.

How long is colic surgery?

Colic surgery can take anywhere from 90 minutes to four hours, depending on the complexity of the case. Afterward, patients return to the padded room where they can wake up from the anesthesia in a safe, controlled environment.

How is colic surgery done on a horse?

To perform a colic surgery, the patient is anesthetized and placed on its back so that the abdomen can be accessed. The entire abdomen is clipped to removed hair and scrubbed using sterile technique.

Will my horse survive colic surgery?

Success rates of colic surgery in horses Currently, around 80% of horses undergoing colic surgery at specialist clinics will return home and research has shown that the prognosis may be just as good for an older pony as a fit, young Thoroughbred.

Do horses 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%).

How long does it take for a horse to recover from colic surgery?

60 to 90 days: Gradually return to normal activity from day 60 to day 90 after surgery. If postoperative complications occurred, especially in the incision, additional rest is recommended.

What causes horse colic?

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.

When a horse is Colicing?

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 long do horses live with colic?

A horse showing symptoms of colic needs urgent treatment, or it may survive for only another 12 to 48 hours.

Can you do surgery on a horse?

Even old horses can handle anesthesia well, as can sick horses and foals, but we do recognize that these can require special care. By the same token, a healthy horse can also develop an idiosyncratic response to anesthesia that could be life-threatening.

Horse Colic Surgery: Making Hard Decisions – The Horse

Your pulse races as you try to calm down your sweating 21-year-old gelding, who is straining as agony grips his midsection and makes him shiver. When he comes close to catching you with a hoof as he paws, you are reminded to keep vigilant and on guard. Swinging his head to glance at his flank, he swishes his tail frantically in the air. The more upset he becomes, the more concerned you get. Once again, your thoughts are interrupted by the voice of the veterinarian, who confirms one of your darkest nightmares.

Is it necessary to have colon surgery?

Isn’t it possible to handle him on the farm?

Is it necessary to fill the trailer tires with air?

I’m not sure I’ll be able to afford it.

There are a lot of questions for horse owners in this circumstance; a severe colic diagnosis, which may result in a referral for possibly surgery, can be unpleasant and frightening for them.

In some cases, though, you may be forced to make unpleasant decisions in order to protect the horse’s wellbeing.

When Colic Strikes

It is more likely that a patient will have a positive outcome if they are diagnosed with colic as soon as the clinical indications are recognized. It’s ideal to have a plan in place for what to do if your horse develops colic, says Jarred Williams, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS-LA, ACVECC of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens, who works as a clinical assistant professor of large animal emergency medicine at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Excessive sweating, rolling or wanting to lie down are all signs of colic.

You should contact your veterinarian immediately to assess the horse’s condition, and you should follow his or her instructions until aid arrives.

Time Is of the Essence

When it comes to dealing with colic, says Anthony Blikslager, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, professor of equine surgery and gastroenterology at North Carolina State University’s (NCSU) College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, the first step is determining the severity of the problem. “When it comes to colic, the only thing that matters is whether or not the horse has to be submitted for additional assessment,” explains Dr. Smith. “It is not necessary for you to understand why the horse is colicking.

  1. According to Williams, the most critical steps are correct identification of the lesion (defined as any aberrant change in tissue), rapid treatment and referral, and timely therapy and referral.
  2. As a result, “these patients might experience major cardiovascular collapse and breathing trouble as a result of strain on the diaphragm, necessitating rapid surgery since they can die in a short amount of time—hours,” adds the doctor.
  3. ACVS, believes that delaying referral to the hospital for IV fluids on the farm might make matters worse in some instances.
  4. If a horse is not responding to pain-relieving drugs, it is critical that he be sent to a reference facility, according to Freeman.

He goes on to say that any delay can transform what would have been a simple surgery into a major one, increasing the likelihood of postoperative complications and mortality.

At the Referral Hospital

Because many horses reside a long distance away from a referral hospital, it is not always possible for veterinary surgeons to assess the horse as rapidly as they would want owing to the limited time available. Williams frequently sees horses four to six hours after the first signs of colic are noticed by their owners. Blikslager explains that once the horse arrives at the referral hospital, a veterinarian there will conduct a workup, which typically takes 40-60 minutes. He or she then discusses the findings with the horse’s owner, makes recommendations regarding medical management or exploratory surgery, and provides an assessment of the horse’s prognosis.

He or she may also check the horse’s systemic glucose (which can be determined from blood samples), abdominal lactate (which can be determined from peritoneal fluid obtained from an abdominal tap), heart rate, and whether or not the horse is in shock.

  • Type of lesion
  • A diagnosis is made based on the horse’s health history, as well as whether or not he has any additional problems that might impair his ability to survive surgery and recuperate healthily, such as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, equine asthma, or an underlying inflammatory illness
  • Whether or not the horse has previously colicked
  • Whether or not the horse will be able to stand up following surgery (to ensure that he does not have osteoarthritis or other problems that might impair his ability to stand). The emotional relationship that the owner has to the horse
  • The cost of medical care
  • The risks associated with anesthesia
  • The time necessary for recovery
  • The age of the horse
  • And other considerations

A consideration in the decision-making process may be the horse’s monetary worth and whether or not he will be able to return to his original purpose. Once a patient undergoes surgery, Blikslager predicts that his or her worth will decrease if the prognosis for returning to normal function is bad. And, while the majority of individuals who have colic surgery are able to return to their original occupation, the recovery period is lengthy. According to Freeman, many healthy senior horses recover well after major colic surgery, despite the popular belief that older horses are incapable of handling anesthesia and operation.

Aside from health reasons, one of the most important aspects in deciding whether or not to have surgery is financial considerations.

Affording the Procedure

According to Blikslager, the following are the general expenditures associated with colic surgery at NCSU:

  • $1,000 for first exploratory surgery
  • $2,500 for a small intestinal resection (the surgical removal of the diseased portion of the small intestine), although this cost varies depending on the kind of operation
  • And $3,000 or more for aftercare, depending on complications. He claims that the expenses of medically managing a horse are far less than the price of surgery. The average colic bill at NCSU, which includes both medical and surgical patients, is $4,200. Depending on the circumstances, it may cost as much as $8,000-$10,000.

Fortunately, some horse owners have other options for making payments besides using their bank accounts. NCSU, according to Blikslager, offers owners the opportunity to apply for a CareCredit loan. Additionally, the hospital has a pool of donated funds available for those who cannot afford surgery but still meet the hospital’s eligibility requirements and whose horses have a reasonable chance of recovery. Each referral hospital, on the other hand, offers a unique set of financial support choices.

Search websites such as GoFundMe to discover a plethora of initiatives now happening to raise funds for the surgical or medical care of horses.

Because of this, having equine insurance can be extremely beneficial.

After owners have submitted all essential policy information, NCSU staff employees check benefits with insurance company adjusters in order to assure that this is the case.

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When an owner purchases mortality insurance but not major medical insurance for their horse, and the horse develops colic that can be treated medically or surgically, Blikslager says the insurance company will mandate that the horse receive treatment and will not pay out if the horse is euthanized as a result of not receiving treatment.

The loss-of-use policy is extremely difficult to cash in on unless you have a horse that is extremely valuable, according to Blikslager.

“You have to prove that the horse can no longer (fulfill) his intended purpose,” he explains. That’s going to be a long, drawn-out process with the insurance company,” says the author.


Blikslager says he typically talks euthanasia early on in the process in the event that the owners do not want to or are unable to continue medical care. The author states that “a lot of people feel terribly horrible for their animals.” “In addition, the horse could be in horrible form, and they might not have much in the way of financial resources.” According to Blikslager, the veterinarian must maintain objectivity and refrain from reacting emotionally in order to guide the client through the decision-making process.

Freeman emphasizes the need of handling the horse in a compassionate manner, reminding the horse owner that euthanasia is intended to relieve pain.

surgery—and how doing so might both prolong agony and diminish the odds of a good surgical outcome.

The Recovery Process

According to Blikslager, it is quite simple to address the majority of problems following surgery (shock,endotoxemia, electrolyte imbalances,dehydration, reflux, etc.). According to him, around 15% of hospitalized colic surgery patients develop incision site infections, which can appear as swelling, discomfort, and/or drainage at the site of the incision. Hernias can develop as a result of infections in the body wall. During the second and third postoperative days, NCSU staff members begin reintroducing feed gradually.

  • It should take approximately a week for the horse to be ready to be returned to its owner, assuming he did not suffer any significant problems and did not colic again.
  • Depending on whether or not the horse was an athlete, it might take another three months for him to regain his prior level of conditioning.
  • Long-term survival rates for horses with colic are frequently determined by how long the horse had been suffering from the condition before being taken to the vet.
  • If a horse suffers from colic again, it becomes more difficult to rescue him with a second operation.

When Surgery Isn’t an Option

Surgery is not always a possibility due to financial constraints, logistical issues (e.g., inability to travel to a referral hospital), and other factors. In this instance, the best course of action is to attempt to manage the horse medically, whether at home under the supervision of your veterinarian or at the referral center. In the absence of substantial indicators of suffering or pain in the horse, Freeman believes that waiting for him to react to medical treatment is an acceptable strategy.

If you have a strangulating blockage, for example, there is little you can do to resolve it short of surgery.

However, if the horse is suffering from a nonstrangulating blockage, you will have more alternatives for medicinal management.

So when surgery isn’t an option, evaluating whether a blockage is strangulating or not is critical when developing a therapeutic strategy, according to Williams. (See for further information on the forms of colic that necessitate referral.)

In Summary

Prepare a colic strategy for each horse in advance of an emergency situation. Additionally, consider getting equine major medical insurance, which can assist in making the decision to send a horse to life-saving surgery a less difficult one to make. “Effective communication is critical to a successful conclusion, and the more that has been established before to colic, the more smoothly things may go if a scenario emerges,” adds Williams. ” There are a variety of approaches that may be used to assist enhance the likelihood of a colicking horse.

Colic Surgery: Yes or No?

Just a little more than an hour ago, your gelding began to exhibit signs of discomfort. Your horse was sweating profusely by the time your veterinarian came, pawing wildly and flinging himself down in the barn aisle, no matter how hard you tried to keep him on his feet. Even after receiving IV anesthesia and receiving a dosage of pain medicine, he continued to be uncomfortable. It was the expression on your veterinarian’s face that told you all you needed to know. Your biggest worry was verified by her next statement.

  • When your horse requires surgery to treat his colic, there are no other options available to save his life.
  • When your veterinarian inquires as to whether or not your horse is a candidate for colic surgery, she need a response quickly and without delay.
  • In this essay, I’m going to assist you in determining whether or not you would say yes if your horse required colic surgical intervention.
  • In the next section, I’ll discuss what your veterinarian may do differently if surgery were a possibility for your colicky horse, as opposed to what she would do if surgery were not an option.
  • Acute mild to moderate colic episodes are most usually caused by gas discomfort or feed obstructing a part of the intestines, and the majority of them may be treated medically.

First, the Facts

You may have heard a variety of different stories concerning colic surgery, ranging from the stories of horses that needed surgery but recovered with essential oils to the horrifying accounts of horses who struggled through a grueling recovery only to get ill again. Here are some fundamental facts that you should be aware of before making your final selection. When surgery is absolutely necessary: Mild to severe colic episodes are most usually caused by gas discomfort or feed obstructing a part of the intestines (an impaction), and many of these episodes may be treated medically with medication.

  • If your horse has a loop of intestine that has gotten misplaced (is in an aberrant position), twisted around itself, or has become stuck and “strangulated,” no amount of medical care will be enough to save his life; he will need surgery in order to survive.
  • When surgery is required, it is critical to recognize that further pain-relieving drugs or “a little more time” will not be of use.
  • Is there a risk that surgery may be advised but that your horse will not actually benefit from the procedure?
  • However, with modern diagnostic tools at your disposal, as well as the substantial training and expertise of the majority of horse surgeons, this is quite rare.
  • Nuts and bolts are used to hold things together.
  • Things are going to move quickly.
  • If all goes according to plan and there are no issues, your horse will be kept in the hospital for a number of days before being released to his new home.

For a length of time, he may be required to take drugs and follow a specific diet.

If you decide to have your horse put down for surgery, you’ll need to be able to access these types of cash as soon as you make the decision.

I believe them.

Overall colic operation survival rates can be as high as 90 percent, and studies have shown that as many as 80 percent of horses are able to return to athletic activity, with some doing even better than they did previously.

All of these considerations will need to be taken into consideration while making your selection.

These problems are difficult to foresee and can result in higher expenditures or a worse outlook for the patient.

Now Not Later

Every time I’m standing in the barn aisle with the owner of a colicky horse, I raise the question, “Would you take your horse to surgery?” I get a positive response every time. And every time I do, I hold my breath, thinking that the owner already knows what the answer is to my question. The reason behind this is as follows: Decisions about treatment: If your gelding is a surgical candidate, I may make a different judgment about how I treat him based on that information. If I provide a lesser amount of pain medication, I can ensure that I do not conceal symptoms of discomfort that might be essential for assessing whether or not surgery is necessary in a particular case.

  1. The importance of time cannot be overstated: When you know you’re about to have surgery, every minute matters when you’re dealing with acute colic.
  2. I would much rather he spend a night in the hospital and not require surgery than be standing in a barn aisle hours away from the surgical table when he begins to crash and burn and requires immediate medical attention.
  3. The worst thing that can happen is when an owner initially informs me that surgery is not an option for their horse, but then changes their mind several hours later when it becomes evident that their horse would not survive without it.
  4. Financial planning: If you have decided to seek surgery, you now have the opportunity to put financial preparations in place to support your decision.
  5. If your horse’s discomfort persists despite a dose of pain medication, you may need to consider colic surgery as a last resort.

Five Factors to Help You Decide

With this foundational knowledge in hand, it’s time to think about your personal horse and whether or not he’d be a suitable candidate for surgical intervention. The following five elements will all be taken into consideration:

Factor 1: Age and pre-existing conditions

When deciding whether or not to have colic surgery, one of the most prevalent factors to consider is the patient’s age. Is it possible for your older horse to survive surgery? Absolutely! Will it be more difficult for him than it would be for his younger barn-mates to deal with this? Yes, I believe it will. After a colic operation, I’ve seen horses as elderly as 30 years old recover from the procedure. I’ve also seen elderly horses struggle in difficult situations. The question of “how old is too old” is difficult to answer definitively, but there is little doubt that approaching age is a legitimate consideration in making the choice to say no, especially if your horse is already suffering from health issues such as Cushing’s disease.

In some cases, horses with pre-existing health issues such as chronic laminitis or renal illness may not be an appropriate candidate for surgical intervention.

In the event that you are unsure about your horse’s prognosis, you should consult with your veterinarian during your next routine checkup. She can assist you in determining the general health of your horse so that you can determine the best course of action.

Factor 2: Temperament

Is your horse’s temperament suitable for undergoing surgery, recovering, and going through a lengthy rehabilitation process? Some equine surgeons believe that a horse’s temperament can play a significant role in the outcome of a surgery. Surgery may be impossible in exceedingly rare circumstances, such as when a horse is exceptionally difficult to manage. If your horse is likely to be stressed out by handling or stall confinement, you may just believe that putting him through the process of surgery and recuperation would be too much for him.

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When deciding whether to say yes or no to him, take his attitude into consideration.

Factor 3: Money matters

No one wants to put a price on their horse’s life, and it’s understandable. Despite this, cost is frequently cited as one of the primary reasons why horse owners choose not to have colic surgery performed. If you’re fortunate enough to have some extra cash on hand, the financial pressure will not be anything you have to worry about. For some, the monetary value of the horse is simply not sufficient to warrant surgery—even if they have the financial means to do so. Others, because of the emotional bond you have to your horse, would go to any length to save his life if they had the opportunity.

  • You might want to think about setting up an emergency fund in a different bank account, with the money going especially toward medical emergencies.
  • Most horse mortality insurance policies allow for the addition of major medical/surgical insurance to cover the costs of surgery.
  • Programs such as SmartPak’s ColiCare are available from other supplement businesses as well.
  • If you just do not have the finances to open a savings account and are not interested in purchasing insurance, you may try applying for a credit program that provides funding for medical emergencies only, such as CareCredit.

Factor 4: Availability

Is there a surgical facility nearby that I might use? Do you have access to a vehicle and a trailer, as well as a trailer? Surgery will not be an option if there is no surgical center accessible or if you are unable to transport your horse to one. A surgery center that is 10 hours away from the patient’s home may make it difficult (if not impossible) to make the journey in time. It is important to be informed of the location of the nearest accessible service. If it is a long distance away, make arrangements to remove your horse before the indications become serious.

If you do not own a truck and trailer, make sure you have access to one that is available in the middle of the night. The fact that your horse has been trained to load is also quite significant; putting him in the trailer for the first time while unwell and anxious will be extremely difficult.

Factor 5: Prognosis

In conclusion, the nature of the colic episode that your horse is experiencing may have an impact on his prospects of survival and may affect your decision. A simple displacement that is performed as soon as possible will have a far greater chance of success (and will result in fewer difficulties) than a strangulated portion of small intestine that has been simmering for an extended period of time and has caused significant harm. Unfortunately, this isn’t always something that can be decided ahead of time, as you might expect.

If you’re on the fence about treating an older horse that has a history of minor laminitis, you might opt to say no if your veterinarian believes the condition is something with a terrible prognosis, but you might decide to go forward if the problem is something easy.

This is especially true if your horse has a problem with his or her intestines.

Colic vs COLIC, and the Cost

There are two types of colic, according to what I’ve learnt from my years working at the Clinic. The first type is mild colic, while the second is severe colic. For the colic-type of colic, Banamine, water, and electrolytes are recommended, as is, surprise, a significant reduction in food intake over the next few of days. TheCOLICkind of colic can be treated in one of two ways: by administering a large amount of fluids through an IV catheter, by undergoing surgery, or by doing both. The other distinction is the price difference between them.

When it comes to colic therapy, there are three distinct price ranges to choose from.

Due to the fact that these problems frequently happen after hours, there is an emergency cost included (unless you are enrolled in a Springhill EquineWellness Plan, of course).

As previously said, this will entail oversight from Yours Truly, so there you have it.

You should expect to pay anything between $7,500 and $15,000 for the service. I understand what you’re going through. I’ve napped in automobiles that were far less expensive than that as well. So let’s speak about insurance for a moment.

I can’t afford horse insurance

I’ll confess that I thought horse insurance was a lot of money at the time. Nevertheless, I was informed by Rhonda Mack of Jerry Parks Insurance in Ocala that for only $350 per year, a horse might be covered for $11,000 in colic operation expenses! That appears to be a fairly acceptable figure. But. Yes, I’m going to have a little squabble here. This addresses colic, but there isn’t much else covered. Continue reading for more information on insurance, but keep in mind that there are very, very reasonable solutions available to ensure that you can assist your horse.

How does insurance for horses work?

First and foremost, everyone agrees on a monetary worth for your horse. No, you are not just given the option of selecting any number at random. A horse’s worth is determined by factors such as the purchase price (or stud fee if it’s a newborn), training, show record, and so on. We’ve got a number, now what? We’ll start with a simple mortality policy to get things started. Everyone begins their journey here. The premium for this policy is calculated as a percentage of the value figure that we calculated.

  1. From colic to pneumonia to significant lacerations to eye troubles (and holy cow, can those get pricey quickly!
  2. Major medical will even assist with diagnoses and treatment of lameness if the situation warrants it.
  3. Alternatively, you may choose for the support plan, which is a more cost-effective option.
  4. What exactly does all of this mean?
  5. The pre-existing condition exclusion in horse insurance is one of the major drawbacks.
  6. For example, suppose your horse develops a lameness in his left front leg.
  7. Things will be covered by insurance this time around, but not in the future.

Lameness and Insurance

Obviously, if horses become lame only when their insurance was renewed, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Horses, on the other hand, do not operate in this manner. They choose to follow the strategy of “I’m going to go completely insane immediately before this insurance coverage ends.” You think it’s fantastic. That horse with the Suspensory injury, which I mentioned as an example above, will be out for at least six months. Because it occurred two months before your insurance policy’s renewal, you will not be able to take use of all of your insurance benefits.

Accordingly, the Suspensory will be covered for 3-4 months (depending on the insurer) under the new policy after it is incepted.

However (and this is a phrase I despise), it will be barred from entering the country after that and for the rest of eternity. The moral of this story is that I should talk to my doctors regarding lameness and health insurance. It will assist you in making selections.

What about ColiCare?

ColiCare, as well as a few of other comparable programs, can be excellent options for covering colic surgery costs. There is a significant caveat with them: they will only cover surgical procedures and will not cover medical colic. My doctors have the most hands-on experience with ColiCare, and they are enthusiastic about it. Work with SmartPak has been a breeze and the payments have been really prompt and simple. My doctors seem a little ambivalent about the benefits of the supplement, but it’s worth bringing it up with them.

  1. Horse crises are difficult to deal with.
  2. Now I have to follow up with them to see if they will insure me.
  3. Now, be a decent human being.
  4. And if my blog isn’t enough to quench your need for horse knowledge, you should listen to the podcast that the humans produce called Straight From the Horse Doctor’s Mouth (also available in English).
  5. Consider how amazing it would be if I was one of them.

Your Guide to Colic Surgery in the Horse

Dr. Lydia Gray contributed to this article. Would you be prepared if your horse had emergency colic surgery to save his life, and you didn’t have all of the facts you needed to make a timely decision? In this article, we will walk you through the process from beginning to end, explaining the difference between a “medical” colic and a “surgical” colic and how veterinarians distinguish between the two, sharing survival rates and complications, the average cost of colic surgery, and the typical recovery time, and, most importantly, assisting you in understanding your role in all of this and how you can make the best decisions for your horse, According to the most recent estimates, 5 to 10% of the horse population in the United States has colic each year, with the great majority (90 to 95 percent) of cases being minor and resolving with easy medical care and treatment on the farm.

However, roughly 5 to 10% of colicky horses will require referral to a medical center and, if necessary, surgical intervention to rectify the problem.

What is the cause of this discrepancy?

Medical vs Surgical Colic

It’s important to note that not all colics are made equal, since there are several things that may and do go wrong in the horse’s abdomen.

By keeping in mind that the term “colic” refers to stomach discomfort rather than a specific area of the intestine or a specific disease, it becomes clear that a horse exhibiting indications of belly pain might be suffering from one of the following conditions:

  • Colic can be caused by ulcers in the stomach (medical colic), a strangulating blockage in the small intestine (surgical colic), an impaction in the big colon (medical OR surgical colic), or by any other condition.

How can your veterinarian distinguish between a medical colic that may be treated conservatively at home and a surgical colic that must be referred to a clinic that can conduct emergency abdominal surgery? What signs and symptoms should your veterinarian look for? Every action taken by your veterinarian once he or she arrives on the farm – including asking questions about the animal’s recent history, performing an examination that may include nasogastric (nose-to-stomach) intubation and rectal palpation, and starting treatment – provides clues as to the nature of this episode.

  1. Adhesions can be corrected with a second surgery, but it’s not always necessary.
  2. A third example is when your veterinarian administers pain medication to your horse as part of the therapy, but the discomfort lingers or returns promptly.
  3. If, on the other hand, the history includes recent outing onto rich spring grass, your veterinarian is likely to suspect a simple gas colic as the cause of your horse’s symptoms.
  4. If one dosage of an analgesic has him begging for food, passing excrement, and wanting to play with his friends, the episode is likely to have gone.
  1. There are symptoms of total or partial blockage of the intestine
  2. There is continuous or severe abdominal discomfort
  3. Your horse looks to be going into circulatory shock
  4. Or there is a general lack of responsiveness to medical therapy
  5. You should seek veterinary assistance.
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Colic Surgery Survival Rates and Post-Op Performance

The method of colic surgery and the safety of general anesthesia have advanced significantly in the last 20 years, with a substantially larger percentage of horses surviving and prospering as a result of the operation now available than at any time in history. As reported in the Practical Guide to Equine Colice by Louise Southwood and published in 2013, current survival rates for colic surgery vary between 80 and 95 percent. This number fluctuates depending on the sort of lesion – where it is, what it is, and how it was fixed – as well as the hospital/surgeon and even the region of the nation in which it was treated or mended.

Even while many horse owners assume that older horses should not or should not be subjected to colic surgery due to health difficulties, those who are not afflicted by health issues actually endure it fairly well.

David Freeman shared his findings during a presentation at the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Annual Convention in 2014, saying that horses older than 16 years – even those in their late 20s to early 30s – handled general anesthesia and colic surgery well, and their postoperative survival rates were comparable to younger horses.

Freeman further stated that the majority of horses recover to their prior levels of performance following colic surgery, even if this means competing at the highest levels of activity and competition, such as racing, eventing, or Grand Prix dressage or show jumping competitions.

The Cost of Colic Surgery

Colic surgery costs are determined by several aspects, including the type of colic present, the severity of the ailment, where in the nation you reside, and other considerations, among others. Doctor Southwood states in her book that the cost of surgical treatment, which includes emergency admission as well as basic postoperative care, at U.S. hospitals in 2012 varied between $5,000 and $10,000. She points out that, in the majority of situations, institutions will want a deposit of 50 percent of the estimated cost at the time of enrollment.

It is important for horse owners and anyone who has care, custody, and control over a horse to understand the terms and conditions of any colic surgery reimbursement programs or insurance policies, whether or not your horse is covered by ColiCare or has insurance coverage that includes colic surgery.

  • Colic surgery costs are determined by several criteria, including the kind of colic, the severity of the ailment, where you live in the nation, and other considerations. Dr. Southwood notes in her book that the cost of surgical management in U.S. hospitals in 2012 ranged from $5,000 to $10,000, including emergency admission and basic postoperative care. She points out that, in most circumstances, facilities will want a deposit equal to 50 percent of the estimated cost at the time of enrollment. Pre-operative and post-operative care are included in the average cost of colic surgery nationally, according to claims submitted through SmartPak’s ColiCareTM Program through 2016. It is important for horse owners and anyone who has care, custody, and control over a horse to understand the terms and limitations of any colic surgery reimbursement programs or insurance policies, whether or not your horse is covered by ColiCare or has insurance coverage that covers colic surgery. The following are questions you should ask yourself before making a life-threatening decision:

Knowing that you won’t be able to answer “yes” when the vet asks whether surgery is a possibility for your horse is a horrible feeling, especially when your horse is enrolled in a reimbursement program or has an insurance policy in place. By reading the tiny print now and adhering to all rules, you may save yourself time and stress in the future.

The Surgical Procedure and Complications

It’s a dreadful feeling not to be able to say “yes” when the vet asks whether surgery is a possibility for your horse, especially if your animal is participating in a reimbursement program or has an insurance policy in place. By reading the tiny print now and adhering to all rules, you can save time and stress in the future.

Colic Surgery Recovery and Aftercare

Discharge instructions are typically focused on general monitoring, wound care, feeding, exercise, and medication administration, if any is necessary. Monitoring your horse’s general health includes checking for signs of EDUD (Eating, Drinking, Urinating, and Defecating), making sure he is BAR (bright, alert and responsive), making sure he is regaining any weight he may have lost during this episode, and making sure he is not showing any signs of colic. It is important to check the incision on a regular basis for indications of infection such as discharge, redness, or excessive swelling, as well as “dehiscence,” which is a condition in which the sutured margins split apart or become gaping.

Your horse may or may not be able to return to his regular diet depending on what was discovered during surgery and what the underlying cause of the colic was determined to be.

In most cases, stall rest is followed by four weeks of handwalking and handgrazing, during which time your horse will be able to recover.

If everything is still going well at the conclusion of this 60-day or two-month period, the majority of horses can be allowed to have full turnout with other horses.

By addressing some of the most frequently asked questions about colic surgery – such as when a horse requires surgery versus medical treatment, which factors should be considered when making a decision for a specific horse, and what to expect during and after the procedure – it is hoped that some of the “mystery” surrounding this procedure will be removed, resulting in better outcomes for both horses and their owners.

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

Colic Surgery 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.
  • It is often used to treat life-threatening disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (intestines) that produce colic; however, exploratory celiotomy can also be used to treat reproductive difficulties or lesions in other organs that are located within the abdominal cavity of a patient.
  • Using a sanitary procedure, the whole abdomen is cut to eliminate any remaining hair and cleaned.
  • The region is wrapped sterilely by the surgeon before the procedure (belly button).
  • Regardless of the precise technique used, a variety of treatments can be performed from the incision, including the correction of misplaced intestines, the resection of necrotic intestines, and the removal of intraluminal blockages, among others.
  • There are many distinct types of colic surgery.
  • Large colon volvulus
  • Right dorsal displacement of the big colon (nephrosplenic entrapment)
  • Left dorsal displacement of the large colon (nephrosplenic entrapment)
  • Right dorsal displacement of the large colon (nephrosplenic entrapment)
  • Improper colonic distention
  • Cecocecal and cecocolic intussisception
  • Cecal impaction
  • Enterolita/Fecalith
  • Small colonic distention
  • Intussusception of the jejunum
  • Intussusception of the ileum
  • Ascarid impaction
  • Entrapment of the epiploic foramen
  • Entrapment of the gastrosplenic foramen Lipoma strangulating the intestine
  • Segmental volvulus
  • Mesenteric volvulus
  • Small intestinal entrapment in a mesenteric rent
  • Strangulating lipoma strangulating the intestine

Although the majority of cases of colic that necessitate surgical intervention follow the process outlined above, there are a few particular types of colic that can be handled with alternative procedures or techniques. One treatment involves anesthetizing and rolling a horse in order to treat left dorsal displacement of the large colon on the left (nephrosplenic entrapment). This operation can be successful in situations of nephrosplenic entrapment that have been proven, but it will not be successful in cases of other forms of colic.

This operation is conducted on a standing horse that has been sedated, and it does not allow for a thorough examination of the whole abdomen.

There are certain occurrences of non-strangulating colic that can be managed medically (without the need for surgery). In the end, a horse that continues to show indications of stomach discomfort despite medicinal therapy should be considered for surgical intervention. Advantages:

  • Direct visualization and correction of life-threatening causes of colic
  • Allows for complete exploration of the entire abdomen, not only correction of the lesion
  • Biopsies can be obtained in cases of chronic or recurrent colic
  • General anesthesia allows for a controlled environment for both the patient and the surgeon


  • It is necessary to have general anesthesia for exploratory celiotomy
  • It is necessary to have a period of post-operative rest (2–3 months away from work)
  • It is necessary for the veterinary surgeon to have advanced training.

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.

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