Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention of Colic in a Horse

Horses are herbivores, and have stomachs that are designed for the consumption of plants. Horses differ from other herbivores as their digestive system is classed as monogastric. They have a large intestine, small intestine, and a stomach, and all of the fat, protein, and vitamins are digested in the small intestines, and stomach. The large intestine serves the purpose of a giant VAT where all the bacteria produces enzymes that break down the plant fiber.

Due to the complexity of the horse’s digestion system colic is very common. The term colic is actually defined as some form of abdominal discomfort, and there are many different causes of colic in horses. The symptoms of colic range from mildly uncomfortable up to extreme cases that can result in the horse dying. Unfortunately in the early stages it is very difficult to determine whether the case of colic is mild, or severe. Therefore every case of colic must be dealt with in the same way, and treated as it is a severe case.

Common Colic in Horses

The most common form of colic in horses is due to the gut becoming inflamed. It is essential that you fully understand the symptoms of colic. If you are able to treat it effectively as soon as it becomes noticeable you will save yourself a huge vet’s bill. Often the only way to treat severe colic is through surgery, which is an expensive and complicated process. You should be aware of what your horse is eating, and try to ensure that they digest everything correctly. Often colic occurs due to the horses gut becoming blocked with compacted food.

There are several different reasons that horses contract colic, and some simply cannot be avoided. A change of routine, diet or stressful situations may bring on the colic. Also a worm infestation can be the trigger for the colic. Sand colic is very common in areas where the horses need to graze in sandy regions, and consume a larger than normal amount of sand. The sand will build up in the intestines, and become compacted. Over eating can also be a huge contributing factor to colic, and you should ensure that your horse does not eat too much lush grass, or hay.

The symptoms of colic are different for every horse, and sometimes it can be difficult to diagnose the problem. You should be aware if your horse becomes restless, and does not want to feed. They may also pace up and down their box, and not want to have their stomach touched. They may be suffering from bellyache, and will keep turning their head to their flanks, and stomach. Your horse may stretch, and try to nip at their sides, and have an increased pulse, and sweat uncontrollably.

In severe cases your horse will be in extreme pain, and will be frantically trying to get comfortable. They will lie down, and get up in very quick succession trying to get rid of the pain they are feeling. Your horse may be very agitated, and can even do things that are out of character such as bite and kick. You have to understand that they are in a huge amount of discomfort, and do not know how to deal with it.

Often horses with colic will be somewhere in the middle of mild bellyache, and frantic behavior. If you are concerned about your horses behavior, or you feel that you cannot deal with the symptoms of colic you should seek professional help. Often the colic can be treated with natural remedies, and these should solve the problem. However, if something goes wrong, and your horse begins to deteriorate having a vet there will often save your horse.

The best form of treatment for colic is prevention, and it can be reduced greatly by simple, but effective stable management. You should always provide clean water for your horse, and they should be able to drink freely. Their food should be clean, and fed to them on an elevated surface to avoid ingesting sand.

Feeding your horse at a regular time can also help to prevent colic, and you should try not to change their diet suddenly. Good health care will also help to prevent your horse from getting colic, and they should be wormed regularly, and have their teeth checked. Regular exercise, and enough grazing time will also help to prevent colic. Your horse should be turned out for a large proportion of the day, and being cooped up in a stable is unhealthy for them.