Understanding Colic

Colic is not a disease, it is simply a belly ache. Colic is the number one killer in horses so it is important to understand how to prevent and identify the symptoms of this ailment. Nearly 10% of the equine population experiences Colic at some time. Luckily more than 80% of these cases are resolved medically rather than surgically.

The horse’s digestive system is not the best, the stomach is the size of a football and there are 80 feet of intestines that are designed for food to keep moving through all the time. Horses are natually grazing animals and when we change their routine by keeping them in a stall most of the time, the natual system starts to break down. Thus it is important to offer your horse forage, or hay throughout the day and feed small amounts of grain several times a day.

Colic takes several forms. Gas colic can be mild or severe, depending on how much gas has accumulated in the intestines. Spasmaodic colic is the spasms of the intestinal walls and impaction colic is the accumulation of feed that has caused an obstruction. Colic can also be caused by parasites so it is important to keep your horse on a diligent worming program.

Water consumption is key to a healthy digestive system, so always check your horses water supply and add electrolytes when the weather is too hot or too cold.

Dental care is also important. Your horse must be able to chew and digest his food properly.

Symptoms of colic can be identified if you know your horse well, If he starts to paw, bite his belly, attempt to urinate without success, roll, lie down, stop eating, have a temperature, or act strangely, you should immediately treat him and call your vet. remove your horses water and feed, administer ace and banamine to relax and relieve the stress, hand walk your horse until the drugs take effect. Keep an eye out for manure in his stall and watch for gass or manure to pass. Take his vital signs–you should know his normal temperature and heart rate. Listen to his gut sounds, you should hear rumblings on both sides of his belly.

Most of the time the belly ache passes and all is well, but as an owner you must be in tune to how your horse is feeling. The earlier you identify signs of distress, the faster you will help your horse feel better.