As horse owners and carers, we may find horses with stomach pains at least once in our riding career, but how much do you know about colic in horses and how prepared are you?
What is Colic in Horses?
Colic is a term used to describe abdominal pain in horses caused by problems in the gastrointestinal tract (GI). Among livestock species, horses are the most common animals suffering from colic. Starting in severity, there are about 70 different gastrointestinal problems that can cause horses to become colicky. Colic is one of the most common causes of death in horses, but the development of veterinary medicine has resulted in a much better prognosis thanks to improved diagnosis and better treatment.
If you’re not familiar with how the horse’s digestive system works, check out this great video from Dengie Horse Feeds, where Equine nutritionists Katie Williams and Claire Akers show you around the horse’s digestive system using life-size models.
Colic in Horses Types
Colic in horses consists of several kinds, among others:
- Constipation colic (colonic impaction) is a colic characterized by moderate abdominal pain, depression and constipation.
- Spasmodic colic (enteralgia catarrhalis) is an acute colic accompanied by heartburn that usually lasts not long but occurs repeatedly.
- Tympanic colic (Flatulent colic) is a colic accompanied by excessive gas deposits in the colon and cecum.
- Gastric Colic (Gastric Distension) is an acute colic that usually occurs as a result of increased volume of the stomach.
What Causes Colic in Horses?
The quality of feed that contains too much coarse fiber can cause the ingestion to be slow and the ingestion may be accumulate somewhere in the colon causing constipation due to lack of water and also coarse feed can result in the mucous membranes of the intestines are stimulated continuously until there is enough traumatic inflammation to stimulate the parasympathetic nerves to contract muscles that result in intestinal obstruction with a very severe condition that results in severe pain.
Another cause is due to internal parasites (Strongylus vulgaris worm). The migration of larvae damages the blood vessels in the intestine, reduces the blood supply, causing necrosis, decreases intestinal motility and causes pain. A large number of worms can cause intestinal impaction or obstruction.
In addition, colic can also occur due to other infections in the body, such as dermatitis, pleurisy, laminitis, and other infections that affect the locomotor system.
Signs of Colic in Horses
- The horse looks lethargic, the appetite decreases completely. The appetite for drinking is usually still there.
- The animal is still able to sweat, and is still trying to free the stool in its intestines.
- The amount of urine is gradually reduced
- It frequents stool so it stimulates to secrete a small amount of urine.
- Circulatory disorders suffered are reflected in hyperemia and vasa injection of the conjunctiva
- In foals aged 1-2 days who experience colic appear lethargic and feces are not visible at all.
Colic in Horses Diagnosis
Many different diagnostic tests can be used to diagnose the cause of horse colic, which may have greater or smaller scores in certain situations. The most important difference to make is whether the condition should be medically managed or surgically. If the surgery is indicated, then it should be carried out in maximum haste, since the delay is a terrible prognostic indicator.
Colic in Horses Prevention
- 2 liters of mineral oil (liquid paraffin) for easy passage of feces in older horses
- Chlorhydrate 15-30 grams mixed with 1 liter of water to loosen the ingestion
- If constipation is not heavy, administration of mild purgatives e.g. istizin, aloe with controlled doses
- In foals administered glycerin 25-30 ml, mineral oil 25-40 ml or coloxyl administered through the rectum.