Horse Colic: How to Identify and Treat Colic in Horses

By Sharon Rogers

Horse grazingHorse Colic: How to Identify and Treat Colic in Horses

If you love horses and have spent any time around them you have discovered that they can talk to you. Of course, I know that the horse is not having a conversation with you, but their eyes and body language can say so much. If you have ever seen a case of horse colic, you have seen the animal’s distress in a flash. Colic in horses can be extremely dangerous and needs to be identified as soon as possible. If you own horses, or work with them as I do, you need to know the signs and what to do about them.

What is Colic in Horses?

Colic presents as abdominal pain in horses. Unfortunately, it is not always just a belly ache. The term colic can refer to pain in any of the organs located in the abdominal cavity. These could include the liver, kidneys, spleen, reproductive organs and the entire intestinal tract. It takes an exam by your veterinarian to decide where the problem lies. Most often the diagnosis has something to do with an intestinal problem, but rely on your vet for confirmation of the cause of the colic. Horses with colic symptoms need to be seen by a vet.

Warning Signs of Horse Colic

I have seen colic in horses many times and it always breaks my heart to see such magnificent animals in pain. If you know your horse, you will be able to identify the signs of horse colic. Your horse may bite or kick at their own midsection. They do this because something hurts. They may appear to be restless, laying down and then getting up and pacing around. They may grunt, groan or moan in pain. The manure may look or smell different than usual and the horse may have excessive gas. Change in the color of their gums is also a possible sign of colic. Horses with colic behave much like you or I would if we found ourselves in a lot of pain. If you see these behaviors in your animal, call the vet!

Treatment of Colic

Treatment of colic in horses will depend on the diagnosis made by the veterinarian. Many cases of colic are found to be a result of impaction of the bowel. An impaction can be small and easily resolved, or serious enough to require surgical intervention. If the problem was caused by a change in feed or dehydration (not enough water), treatment will involve fluids and reintroducing a more gentle food to your horse’s system. If your horse is impacted due to a twisting of the intestines or something like a tumor or hernia, surgery may be your only option. Spasms of the colon will be treated with medication that relaxes the muscle spasms, allowing the pain to dissipate. A horse with colic will need to be walked, as this will help relieve the symptoms. Don’t let the potential diagnosis keep you from calling your vet when symptoms arise. While hospital stays and surgery can be needed, that is for extreme cases. More often, your doctor will find the problem to be of a less severe nature. Just be certain to follow the directions of your vet. You have trusted him/her to care for your animal so trust that those instructions are the best thing you can do for your animal. Do not stop medications or treatments without the knowledge of the vet.

Hope you and your horses are having a wonderful week. Stop back soon!