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.
- 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!
For anatomic reasons, horses are in a way predisposed:
1. Functional disorders of the digestive tract
- reduced peristalsis (paralytic ileus)
- gas colic
- spasmodic colic
4. Sand colic
5. Gastric ulcers
There are some measures to be taken to minimize the risk of a colic caused by management parameters: