Equine colic is one of the most common health problems a horse owner will face, but with the proper preventative measures you can help minimize the chances of your horse developing this condition.
Equine Colic is the name given to gut pain which is pain anywhere in the abdomen.
Although equine colic is the number one killer of horses, diagnosis and treatment of colic has made great advances. More horses than ever are now saved by surgical and medical treatment and complications after treatment are rare.
Even if your horse has a mild bout of colic, it can be very upsetting both for you and your horse. Colic affects all breeds of horses and ponies and it occurs because of the shape of the horse's intestine which is very long and easily becomes tangled causing colic. The horse's digestive system produces gas through fermentation. If the intestine is tangled, the gas sometimes gets caught in it causing a blockage and colic.
The horse cannot vomit so therefore is unable to get rid of the irritant material. You must call the vet as soon as you see your horse showing signs of colic.
Stabled horses are more prone to colic than horses kept at pasture.
SYMPTOMS OF EQUINE HORSE COLIC
Your horse may have mild to severe colic but any of the following symptoms should alert you to look for other signs.
- high temperature
- increased pulse rate
- increased respiration rate
- shallow breathing
- swelling of the abdomen
- loss of appetite
- fewer droppings
- pawing the ground with anxiety
- kicking its belly
- examining its flanks
- lying down more than usual
- frequently standing outstretched as if to urinate
- turning the head towards the flank
- curling of the upper lip
CAUSES OF EQUINE COLIC
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly the causes of equine colic. You could check to see if any of the following conditions are causing your horse's colic.
Irregular feeding - horses like a gentle, regular feeding pattern throughout the year.
Too much unsoaked sugar beet or feed concentrate - a diet of mainly roughage and only a little grain or energy-rich supplement divided into two daily feeds is ideal. The energy ratio of hay/forage to supplements should be roughly 2 to 1. The risk of equine colic is increased with high carbohydrate diets and inadequate access to hay or grass.
A sudden change of diet - a regular feeding schedule is of great importance.
Indigestion or build up of gas from eating too much grass.
Intestinal accident or blockage - check regularly for pieces of twine, plastic bags and other rubbish which might be eaten by your horse.
Not enough water - make sure there is plenty of water available, and that it is not liable to freeze.
Lack of Exercise - this can potentially cause equine colic. A horse is designed to move around regularly so a routine exercise programme will be of great benefit.
Post exercise - too much food and/or water after exercise could cause abdominal upset.
Stress - too much stress from travel can cause trauma to the abdomen.
Constipation - if your horse is prone to constipation, there is a risk of colic so check out some products to help ease this.
Lack of Worming - make sure this is done on a regular basis.
Unsuitable environment - there is a risk of colic if your horse's grazing is overcrowded. If you are unable to change this, it can be compensated for by various forms of feed concentrate. Make sure horse droppings are removed regularly.
TREATMENT OF EQUINE COLIC
If you notice your horse is showing any of the signs of colic, it is important to remove all food and water from your horse and call your vet immediately.
There are many drugs your vet might use to relieve equine colic pain. Some have a sedative effect, others are anti-inflammatory.
Intestinal lubricants may also be prescribed to help ease the passage of food through the intestinal tract. The lubricant most commonly used is liquid paraffin. It is administered by stomach tube or mixed into to soften it and assist the food through the intestine.
Another product often prescribed is a motility modifier to slow down or speed up gut motility thereby getting it back to normal.
Your vet may use gentle exercise such as walking in hand or gentle lunging to help with equine colic associated with the build-up of gas in the large intestine.
A small amount of cases do not respond to medical treatment and your vet will probably recommend surgery in these cases.