The word colic describes pain within the abdomen.
Causes – – “Usually due to problems with the gastrointestinal tract; spasm, increased gas, impaction or twisting/trapping of the gut. Can be due to pain created by other organs in the abdomen”
These problems can be brought on by sudden changes in diet / management / exercise regime, dental disorders, lack of parasitic control and even the weather. Internal causes include strangulating lipomas, twists of the gut / uterus / scrotum, intussusceptions and adhesions.
Signs – flank watching, kicking out at the abdomen, restless repeated standing and lying down, excessive/repeated rolling, sweating. Horses may show only one of these symptoms. Pain usually comes in waves so monitor behaviour for 10-15 minutes.
Usually due to problems with the gastrointestinal tract; spasm, increased gas, impaction or twisting/trapping of the gut. Can be due to pain created by other organs in the abdomen.
If mild symptoms are shown the colic is usually treated medically with pain relief and muscle relaxants etc.
Very painful colics are often due to an area of gut becoming twisted or entrapped. Once the blood supply to this region of gut is compromised it quickly releases toxins and the horse goes into shock. Surgery is required to correct these problems. Surgery is required within 8 hours of the gut becoming twisted. After this the horse is usually too sick to survive the surgery and anaesthetic.
What to do if you suspect your horse has colic
? Call the vet. We will want to see all but the very mild cases of colic.
? Remove food.
? If signs are very mild and it is safe to do so, take pulse, temperature and respiratory rate, put ear to abdomen and listen for gurgles. Repeat at 30 minute intervals initially. Monitor droppings and any gas passed.
? Increase bedding depth if safe.
? If signs are mild, walk your horse for 5 minutes every 15-20 minutes (to stimulate normal gut motility and to distract from the pain). If the horse is trying to go down and roll while being walked then return to the stable.
? If the horse is very painful, do not approach it or try to examine it, you WILL get hurt. Do not try to stop your horse from rolling, research shows it does not increase the risk of gut twisting but it will increase the risk of you getting hurt.
? In severe cases, your horse may need to be transported to a veterinary practice to carry out colic surgery. In this case transport needs to be arranged, if you do not have nay transport contact our reception team for a list of potential transporters.
Treatments – Treatments aim to relieve pain and restore the gut to normal motility, as well as maintaining hydration and treating the cause. Pain relief and anti spasmodics are given as a first approach, and can be followed up with fluid therapy (orally and IV), anti-inflammatories, anti-endotoxins, antimicrobials and anthelmintics and laxatives. Walking the horse in hand and gastric decompression are other commonly used therapies. Hospitalisation is often required and surgery is not uncommon.
Preventions – Introduce any changes to diet, management and routine slowly, keep up to date with dental and worming programmes.