Horse colic is a common sickness that can strike any horse, no matter the breed, age or location. Colic is not a disease that is recurring, although any horse can colic several times for many different reasons. Like a cold, horses can get colic several times a year and at any time. Colic can become severe and fatal, or may be light and go unnoticed by the horse’s owner. Colic is the number-one natural killer of horses.
Signs of Horse Colic
Colic is dangerous because sometimes severe symptoms are present while other times there are hardly any signs at all. Several signs of colic may appear suddenly in some horses suffering from colic. Refusing food, excessive rolling and thrashing, repeated biting, kicking or touching of the stomach and no fecal movement for several hours are all signs of colic. The horse’s stomach may be bloated and no gut sounds can be heard after pressing your ear against his side. The horse may be sweating even though he is standing still or the temperatures are cool.
When you suspect your horse is suffering from colic, act quickly. Begin by walking your horse for 15 minutes. If no improvements are seen, stop walking the horse and call a veterinarian. Walking should loosen any impactions in the horse’s intestines. If this doesn’t work, there is nothing else you can do by yourself. The longer you wait to get the horse to a veterinarian, the less chance of survival the horse has.
A veterinarian will treat the horse according to the type of colic is occurring. A painkiller will relieve the horse’s pain and allow him to relax for treatment. Never give your horse a tranquilizer, since they cause the intestinal tract to slow or stop.
For an impaction, the veterinarian may give the horse a laxative to help move the impaction. If the colic is from muscle spasms, the vet will administer a muscle relaxer. If the colic is caused from the horse eating too much feed, a gallon of mineral oil can be poured through a tube straight into the horse’s stomach. This should only be done by a veterinarian and never attempted at home.
Colic is often caused by horses eating too much feed, ingesting sand or dirt with their feed, eating without drinking enough water to help lubricate the intestines or from irregular feeding schedules. Eating bad or moldy feed or hay can also cause colic.
Another cause of colic is the infestation of worms and other parasites. These infestations can cause major blockages and disruptions in the intestines.