Heartache of Colic

The heartache of colic in horses, when colic occurs in horses it is a very stressful time for everyone. The horse is often found pawing the ground, rolling, and in extreme pain. There are over 70 different causes of colic in the horse.

Some of the most common causes are:
•Impaction of the large intestine usually caused by sudden change of feed or weather, stress, lack of adequate water consumption, foreign body, severe changes in exercise, or ingestion of sand;
•Spasmodic (hypermotility of the small intestine) often caused by a heavy worm burden;
•Torsion or twisting of the bowel usually caused from rolling;
•Colitis or bowel infection;
•Less common causes are uterine torsion, roundworm impaction, and bladder stones.

The best approach to colic is prevention and quick action if it does occur. A horse cannot vomit, so if there is an obstruction of the bowel, gas and fluid rapidly accumulate resulting in severe pain. If not quickly attended to, the stomach may rupture resulting in a painful death.

What to do until help arrives? Keep the horse walking and do not allow it to roll.

Prevention is the best approach to managing colic. Horses are very sensitive to sudden changes of any kind, i.e. new pasture mate, diet, severe weather changes. Minimise stress by slowly introducing feed changes, practice good parasite control, and ensure a good source of water. Impaction colic is often a consequence of old arthritic or injured horses that find it too painful to travel to the nearest dam for a drink.

There are several inexpensive feed supplements that are helpful in decreasing incidence of colic in your horse. Psellism husks are excellent for horses on a sandy paddock because it appears to push the sand out of the bowel. Pysllium is also helpful keeping those older horses regular but remember to wet down the feed before feeding. Chamomile flowers are a very good digestive aid and also work well in calming the nervous horse. Slippery Elm coats the damaged bowel and aids in its recovery. If your horse has digestive issues, please consult your veterinarian and/or herbal professional for help in keeping your horse out of danger.

Remember, prevention is always better than intervention!

By Ruby Petersen DVM PhD CVA(IVAS)