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Colic in Horses

Colic in Horses

Colic is a common health problem in horses. This disease is characterized by abdominal pain, which can be caused by gastrointestinal problems, the presence of parasites in the intestinal tract, as well the ingestion of sand or dirt.
PetPonder Staff
Horses can get 'colic' or abdominal pain due to various reasons. Some of the factors that can cause colic can be quite minor, while others can be serious and require immediate medical intervention. Colic can be caused by a number of gastrointestinal problems.

There can be several types of equine colic, of which some common types are - impaction colic, spasmodic colic, ileal impaction colic, displacement or torsion colic, enterolith, sand impaction colic, gastric distention, and the colic caused by parasites like, tapeworms, large roundworms, and Cyathostomes.

What Causes Equine Colic

Equine colic can be caused by a number of factors. Sometimes, a hard mass of food can block the large intestine at one of the flexures, where the intestine turns and becomes narrow. Sometimes, an accumulation of gas in the intestine, especially in the large intestine can increase the peristaltic contraction of the gastrointestinal tract, and result in abdominal pain or colic.

The formation of benign fatty tumors (lipomas) in the intestinal tract, ingestion of sand or dirt along with pastures, the buildup of mineral deposits in the intestine, and the presence of large roundworms and tapeworms can also block the intestinal tract, which in turn can result in colic. Apart from these, the displacement of the dorsal colon, torsion, i.e., twitching of the parts of the gastrointestinal tract, the formation of ulcer in the stomach, consumption of moldy or rotten food, and an inflammation of the small, as well as large intestine can cause equine colic.

Signs and Symptoms

A number of signs can be observed in a horse suffering from colic. The abdominal pain caused by this condition often compels the affected horse to kick the belly or the abdomen, and nip at the sides. The affected horse can show no interest to eat or drink, and may lie down more than usual, or get up and lie down repeatedly.

Sometimes, the horse can get up and start walking in circles, and then lie down again. The other signs of colic can include, pawing the ground, frequent attempts to urinate and defecate with no success, turning the head towards the flank, diarrhea, curling the upper lip, groaning, stretching, restlessness, stamping of feet, slightly higher body temperature than normal, increased pulse rate, and sweating.

Treatment of Colic

The treatment of colic depends on the severity of the condition, and the underlying causes. Sometimes, immediate surgical intervention can be required for treating this condition. So, if your horse is exhibiting the serious signs of colic, then call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Do not feed your horse or administer any kind of medications without the approval of a veterinarian. A veterinarian can carry out certain tests and examinations to find out the severity of the condition, and then treat it accordingly.

The incidence of colic can be reduced to some extent by feeding your horse high quality fiber (hay or pasture), providing clean feed (free of molds and dirt), and preventing the ingestion of sand and dirt. A regular feeding schedule, and avoidance of frequent changes in the diet can help reduce the risk of colic. Also important is to provide clean water to your horse, feed hay and water before grain, maintain a regular and consistent exercise program, opt for regular deworming, and avoid feeding your horse immediately after exercising. You can talk to a veterinarian, if you have any doubts regarding what do horses eat and what they should not eat.

Horse owners should know the symptoms of colic, in order to detect it early and seek medical treatment. In certain instances, equine colic can turn out to be a life-threatening condition. So, if you have any questions related to colic, or if you want to know more about the precautionary measures that can be taken for preventing this condition, talk to a veterinarian.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.