Colic - Types of Colic in horses, causes, symptoms & treatment

Colic is the general term for pain in the horse's abdomen.

There are several types of equine colic with different causes.

The severity of cases of colic can range from mild to potentially fatal. It is a common cause of death in horses and ponies.

In the early stages of equine colic in a horse or pony it can be difficult to tell how serious the episode may be.

It is very important to treat any case of colic as potentially serious - Call your vet straight away if your horse is suffering from abdominal pain.

Types of Colic

Impaction, blockage or stoppage
This type of colic is caused by food blocking the alimentary canal. It can sometimes occur following a worming dose as the expelled worm bodies block the gut.
 
Flatulent / Gas / Tympanic colic
Flatulent colic is caused by gas being created faster than it can be absorbed or passed out. It is natural for gas to be created during digestion, but if it is trapped it can disetnd the gut wall and cause abdominal pain.

 
Spasmodic colic
Spasmodic colic is caused by an irritated gut wall becoming overactive and causing spasms. The vet can can use drugs to relax the horse and reduce spasms.
 
Artery blockage
A thrombosis caused by worms, such as redworms . Without its blood supply the section of gut involved dies unless an alternative route develops in time
 
Twisted Gut / Intestinal Catastrophe
Probably the most serious form of equine colic - a twisted gut causes intense abdominal pain. The intestines twist or become twisted around the tissue that attaches them to the walls of the abdominal cavity. This will cause violent colic symptoms. The blood flow in the intestine becomes obstructed.
 
Enteritis/colitis
A serious form of equine colic due to inflammation of the small or large intestines.
 
Sand colic
Suffered by horses that have been eating sand or grazing on sandy soils. 
 

Symptoms of colic in horses and ponies

All or any of the following are symptoms of colic:

  • The horse appears to be in pain, kicks at it belly and paws the ground.
  • The horse is lying down and may stretch out and groan.
  • Gets up and down and frequently rolls.
  • Stamping of feet.
  • Breaking out in a cold patch sweat.
  • Breathing hurried and blowing.
  • Bowel movements slow down or stop.
  • Raised temperature.
  • The horse may repeatedly look at his flank
  • Standing in a stretched out posture as if trying to pass urine

Treatment of a horse with colic / how to care for a horse with colic

If out in the field the horse should be brought into the stable, and the vet called.

Do not feed a horse with colic, but a little water may be offered.

Keep the horse warm.

Don't attempt to administer any colic drugs to your horse without consulting your vet.

The horse or pony should be prevented from rolling.

Although you should not allow your horse to roll when he has colic - DO NOT walk him around for hours. This will only tire him, cause him pain and discomfort and make recovery harder,especially if he eventually requires surgery.

When the vet arrives he may use drugs to relieve pain, relax the horse and ease spasms. He may also administer a saline solution.

Immediate surgery is required in the case of a twisted gut.


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