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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