Colic can be terrifying for a horse owner. The majority of horses that colic can be treated and recover, but some don’t. This condition is one that you must call a vet for as soon as you suspect your horse may have it, due to how serious it can be. Here’s what you need to know about how to tell if your horse has colic.
What Is Colic?
Colic is abdominal pain in horses that ranges in severity from mild to an emergency. In some cases, you may not even notice that your horse has colic because it can be a stomach ache that goes away quickly. In others, colic can be serious, requiring surgery, or in the worst of cases euthanasia. Since it can be so severe, you should seek veterinary help as soon as you start to worry that your horse is colicking.
Though colic has multiple forms, symptoms tend to be similar. Some signs that your horse is colicking include:
- Looking at, kicking, or biting their abdomen
- Rolling or wanting to lie down
- Not eating or drinking
- Lip curling
- Lack of or infrequent bowel movements
- Excessive sweating
- Stretching out, as if to urinate
- Abnormally high pulse or fast respiration rate
- Sitting in a dog-like position
- Lying on their back
- Absent or infrequent digestive sounds
Colic can have a number of causes, so vets tend to focus on identifying the type. The three main types are: Intestinal dysfunction, intestinal accident, and intestinal inflammation.
This is the most common type, typically caused by bowel problems. This can be brought on by gas, by decreased motility, by food, by their bedding, or by sand. Intestinal dysfunction cases can typically be treated once and then your horse will be well on the road to recovery.
Though all colic cases should be treated seriously, this type of colic is generally more serious than intestinal dysfunction. This kind results from displacements of a part of your horse’s digestive system, entrapment, or twisting. These can cut off the blood supply to part of your horse’s system. These types can need surgery to heal.
These kinds of colic tend to come on through stress, infection (hence their name), parasites, medications, and more. Intestinal inflammation can generally be treated medically, though more serious cases may require surgery.
What To Do If Your Horse Has Colic
If you notice any of the common symptoms of colic, put your horse in a safe area, take all food away, and contact your vet. You’ll also want to get vital signs, like the color and moistness of their gums, their temperature, their pulse, how fast they’re breathing, the most recent bowel movements, and their gut sounds in order to tell your vet when you call them. They’d also want to know about any recent dietary or exercise changes, the horse’s medical history, and if they are in a breeding program or pregnant.
Your vet will want this information in addition to the symptoms that you noticed so that they can know the severity of your horse’s case and how fast they need to get out to you. In some cases, the vet may not need to come out immediately, but in others, they will get to you as soon as possible.
While on the phone with your vet, they’ll give you recommendations on what to do while you wait, such as whether to allow your horse to eat and if so, what they can have, whether to walk them around and how much or how little, whether or not to let them lie down or roll.
Once the vet gets to you, they’ll examine your horse and ask questions about the horse’s lifestyle and overall history. Their examination can go beyond checking your horse visually and extend into blood tests and other such things in order to get as much information about what is going on with your horse as possible in order to determine the colic they have and what treatment would be best.
Depending on what the vet finds and how your horse is, your horse may either need to be taken in for hospital treatment or surgery, or your vet will be able to treat them where they are. If your horse doesn’t need to be taken to an equine hospital, treatments may include fluid therapy, laxatives, pain relievers, and/or sedatives.
Your vet may also make recommendations for what to do in regards to feeding, exercise, and medication while your horse recovers, which are important to abide by.
A good way to try to prevent colic is to be aware of your horse’s habits and maintain their health. A good rule of thumb is to make any changes gradually, no matter if it is in regards to feed or activity levels. Your horse’s system needs time to adjust to new feed and their body needs time to adjust to increased or lowered activity levels. Making any changes gradually reduces your horse’s risk.
It’s vital to maintain their health, both as a general necessity and to stave off colic. Following your horse’s worming and vaccination schedules, making sure they always have access to clean water, and keeping where they live clean of manure will help your horse stay healthy and happy.
Do You Have Questions About Colic?
With how serious colic can be, it’s important to call a vet if you notice any warning signs of your horse colicking. Borrett Animal Hospital can help you keep your horse healthy or get them back to health. For more information about colic, contact us at Borrett Animal Hospital today!