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Colic in Horses

Colic in Horses
The dreaded word- COLIC.

This is the fear of every horseperson, yet it is not as common as you’d think. Because of its mortality rate, colic’s reputation is a fearful one.

Last week I attended a conference at the VMRCVM on colic so let me share some things with you:
Colic is the third leading cause of death in horses.
Only 4% of horses will get colic, but of these, repeat cases are common.
11% of colics are fatal, and 1 out of ten requires surgical treatment.
Colic surgery will cost $5000 to $8000

colichorse-colic 2

These are the signs of colic… your horse looking at his side and rolling.

The first hours of colic are critical, a severe case can be dead in 12 hours. Of course we regularly leave our horses for longer periods than that, so if you find your horse in distress, you need to get help immediately! Transport to a surgical facility if that is in your budget. The sooner you travel, the better, if you are fairly close to a surgical facility. A work-up for diagnostics will cost you about $650.

Learn to take vital signs: Temperature, pulse rate and respiratory rate.

Colic does not usually cause a fever but an elevated pulse rate, greater than 40 beats per minute at rest is a sign of a problem. If the pulse rate goes over 60 BPM, the prognosis is worse. Expect your vet exam to include a rectal exam and nasogastric intubation. Gastric reflux is a severe sign. Horses cannot vomit, and pressure builds up in the stomach with an intestinal blockage.

You may administer Banamine, and in fac,t most colics are simple gas pain and will resolve with Banamine. The next common cause of colic is dehydration, and oral electrolytes can help to reverse this.

Other causes of colic are these. Feed impactions, ascarid impactions, verminous migration, displacement of the colon, nephrosplenic entrapment, volvulus of the intestine, enteroliths, lipoma entanglement, inguinal hernia, intussception.

Horses can get dehydrated during the winter months from riding, or from lack of water. Administer electrolytes prior to your rides, provide unfrozen water at all times, especially when horses are on hay diets.  Add water to pelleted feeds for older horses. Avoid moldy hay. Be aware that hungry horses will eat things they normally would not and should not eat (like tree bark and toxic weeds). Have fecals examined at vet for microscopic evidence of parasites. Avoid sudden changes in feed. Keep emergency drugs on hand for pain such as Banamine. Keep a palm sized piece of ginger in your freezer- use cut-up fresh ginger steeped in hot water as an antispasmodic tea for acute colic, while you wait for your vet to arrive. Again, learn to take your horse’s vital signs. Get a digital thermometer from the drug store and keep it in your barn. Normal rectal temperature is 99-100 Farenheit. Advise horse sitters of your horse’s normal behavior and give them the number of a vet to call for emergency. Realize that most colics will recover, but a severe colic is an illness that can end in euthanasia even if you take the best of care of your animals. If you hang around horses long enough, you will eventually encounter a colic. It is wise to be informed and to determine the severity and to act quickly on worsening signs.



January 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rescue squad

During this new year, I want to express my appreciation for our volunteer rescue squad and fire department members. I have been certified as an emergency first responder and it is only now that I realize what a treasured resource these people are. Until last year, I hardly ever noticed evidence of the rescue squad except for occasionally seeing them sitting in the doorway of the squad building on a sunny afternoon. I have never called 911 for anything and know only one person who has called an ambulance in the last few years. Sure, I have seen a few fires, and have seen the fire department working heroically on occasion. I sure appreciated their response when my horse was stuck in a cattle guard one snowy night! But the rescue squad somehow escaped my notice.
What a new view I have now! My eyes have been opened to the dedication of a fairly large number of volunteers in this county. I just never thought about all those skilled people who are on call 24/7 for anyone who calls 911.
Calls come in night and day for the sick, the fallen, and the accidents; for the forest firefighters, the elderly, the poor, the schoolchildren. These local people put in endless hours of training and testing to maintain certification to serve their community. They have to know about homeland security, CPR, childbirth, pharmacology, advanced life support, legal issues, and so much more. Once trained, the education requirements continue. Fortunately, we have a treasure of wonderful teachers who spend many a late night training these young people to provide emergency care and making sure they can perform the necessary skills. But there’s more…
I never thought of the ambulance having to travel on muddy or snow-covered roads in remote areas, with a good hour’s trip to the hospital with a critical patient. I never considered what it would be like to drive a large ambulance containing a critical patient and 2 EMT’s, until I tried it. Never thought much about that helicopter that flies regularly across the sky… until a good friend of mine was transported in one after a near death experience in the national forest. We are so fortunate to have the services of the Life-Guard teams in this area. That’s another whole story! Let’s face it, we love our remoteness but when you’re delivering a baby or you’re injured, it’s a long way to a hospital!
Being “on call” has been a way of life for me. However, I have failed to appreciate all those folks who are on call for me each and every day. Since I have been on a few 911 calls, I see the same familiar faces show up with the ambulance time after time. Their concern and professionalism never waiver even in the worst circumstances. Each emergency takes 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on the distance to the hospital. Often there are no calls for hours, then overlapping calls come in. There is always a back-up crew and another ambulance ready to take over. Our new first responders serve as a supplement to the rescue squad, responding to calls in the more remote areas of the county, ready to assess the situation and advise incoming crew.
I would just like to take this opportunity to say thank you to each and every person who contributes to emergency services. From dispatch to the emergency room there are a multitude of parts that keep this well-oiled machine running. From the mechanic who fixes the ambulance to the Paramedic on call, every part is critical. Take time to thank a volunteer when you can. Contribute what you can to a cause you believe in. Everyone has something to offer. And don’t be surprised if a vet shows up when you’ve called 911!
Marge Lewter, DVM

Dr. Lewter is not just running the roads.

Dr. Lewter is not just running the roads.

January 8, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment