Colic In Horses
What, Why, and How much should you worry?
GI issues and colic in horses can pop up at the drop of a hat. And with the potential to range from mild discomfort to deadly colic in horses is not something to take lightly. That being said this post aims to help you understand the causes of colic and ways of preventing it, recognize the signs of colic, and be prepared to work with your vet if it happens to your horse.
*Note this post does not provide professional medical advice. Contact your veterinarian for your horse’s medical needs and advice on medical conditions or in the event of colic.
The important things you need to know about colic in horses
Equine Colic Basics
Colic is defined as abdominal pain and most often occurs from a disturbance in the digestive tract. Common types of colic include pain from gas build-up, food or foreign matter causing a blockage, intestinal twisting, and sand colic.
What causes it? 16 Things that can cause colic in horses
- Weather changes, storms, extreme temps
- Stress on the body from being vaccinated or other veterinary procedures
- Feed changes- abrupt feed changes put stress on the microbiome which can lead to gas and bloating
- Dehydration- poor water intake due to extreme temps, pain, or inaccessablity to a clean fresh water source can lead to constipation
- Electrolyte imbalances- electrolytes help to keep fluids balanced throughout the body including in the GI tract
- Herd changes
- Trailering and travel
- Dental issues, poor chewing, or rapid consumption
- Fasting, lack of forage in the digestive tract, eating large meals followed by periods without food
- Hormonal imbalances
- Medications or dewormers, parasite die off causing the GI track to become overwhelmed
- Consuming things that are indigestible such as sand, bedding, or bark
- Parasite overload
- Microbiome imbalances such as a lack of stomach acid to break down food or bacterial overgrowth
Colic signs to watch for?
- Lack of appetite
- Laying down with reluctance to get back up
- Looking at or Biting at/kicking at their sides or stomach area
- Not drinking
- Rolling or attempting to roll
- Constipation or very dry manure
- Pale gums
- Lack of digestive/gut sounds
- Reluctance to move
- Stretching as if to urinate
- Increased heart rate
Options to have on hand for temporary colic relief till the vet arrives
How can I prevent it?
- Periodically supplementing with a psyllium product can help keep the digestive tract from build up especially if you live in a sandy area/horses are eating from bare ground. I like to choose sand clearing options that are all natural without artificial flavorings- like this one.
- Regular parasite testing and rotational deworming, you can get a test kit here.
- Gradual changes to food, herd, and environment
- Keeping your horses hydrated with access to fresh clean water and mineral-rich salt
- Spread out medical procedures whenever possible, avoid unnecessary procedures, especially during times of stress
- Act fast if you see early signs of colic
- Microbiome supplements such as high potency probiotics, digestive aids, and immune support supplements to keep things running smoothly
- Keep hormones in balance, watching out for signs of irregular heat cycles in mares or stallion like behavior in geldings or mares
- Kaolin pectin and Rescue Remedy before stressful events
- Provide ample amounts of high-quality clean forage
- Acupressure points for healthy digestion
- Properly warm-up and cool out during exercise
I didn’t have a picture of a horse that was rolling and thrashing in distress from colic so JR offered to demo for the shot.