Colic

The term “colic“ describes symptoms of pain in relation to disorders of the digestive tract without being a proper diagnosis. These symptoms range from mild and inconsequential to  life-threatening or fatal. As it can be quite hard to distinguish a mild colic from a potentially fatal one, all causes of abdominal pain should be taken seriously. It is important to detect these symptoms as early as possible to arrange a prompt examination - a veterinarian should be involved from the onset.
Waiting for the veterinarian you should provide the following:
  - No feed, no water
  - Soft bedding to minimize the risk of injury
  - Do not administer any kind of medicine independently.
  - Watch the rate of defaecation and urination.
  - Find someone to help you.
  - As a precaution organize the transport to a clinic.
You should allow the horse to lay down and roll, with mild colic symptoms you can handwalk your horse. With severe symptoms there is always a higher risk of injury so you better bring the horse to your riding hall.
 
Symptoms

- Sweating
- Pawing the ground
- Turning to the flank and kicking at the abdomen
- Moving up and down
- Curling the upper lip repeatedly
- No appetite
- Increased puls rate (> 60/min)
- Increased breathing rate and distended nostrils
- Reduced or even no peristaltic sounds
- Standing stretched out
- Standing frequently as if to urinate

General lassitude, reduced appetite or unusual lying can be indicators for an upcoming colic!
In case of an ileus you should act quickly- in the beginning horses show severe symptoms of a colic, massive sweating, they often just drop themselves in an uncontrollable way. In some cases, horses seem to improve afterwards, they calm down and stop sweating, but this is misleading - they should be taken to the clinic immediately!

Causes

For anatomic reasons, horses are in a way predisposed:

1. Functional disorders of the digestive tract
   - reduced peristalsis (paralytic ileus)
   - gas colic
   - impaction
   - spasmodic colic
2. Enteritis
3. Parasites
4. Sand colic
5. Gastric ulcers


Prevention

There are some measures to be taken to minimize the risk of a colic caused by management parameters:

  • ensure constant access to clean water
  • appropriate feed (species, performance, quality)
  • sufficient roughage - feed roughage first!
  • daily routine in feeding and training
  • introduce any changes slowly to avoid stress
  • regular deworming
  • avoid ingestion of sand

Torsio coli 360°: as the large intestine twists the emerging total blockage requires immediate surgery - in this case too much time has passed, the intestine is irreversibly damaged

Sand colic: The ingestion of sand can cause severe impactions - in this picture you can see the sedimentation of sand out of the feces collected during the rectal examination.

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