Colic, in the horse, is a generalized term referring to severe abdominal pain. We generally categorize it into one of the following conditions: nonstrangulating obstructions (i.e., sand colic, impactions), strangulating obstructions (i.e., twists of the intestines, colon, or uterus) nonstrangulating infarctions (i.e., bloodworms), diarrhea and abdominal infections. It is estimated that approximately 90% of colics in the horse will respond to medical treatment and not require surgical intervention. Your veterinarian can provide appropriate treatment and help you decide if your horse needs surgery. A thorough physical examination is essential as soon as your horse shows signs of colic. The most typical signs include looking at the flank, abnormal posture, rolling, depression, playing with water, restless walking and/or stretching to urinate.
Important Points To Remember
- Analgesics - There are several drugs available to relieve abdominal pain in the horse. Aspirin-like drugs, such as Banamine, are most commonly used in mild to moderately painful horses. Animals in severe pain may require sedatives or narcotics.
- Stomach Decompression - A tube is generally passed into the stomach to help relieve gas or fluid excess. This tube also allows the veterinarian to administer laxatives if necessary.
- Laxatives - Mineral oil, water, and psyllium are among the most common laxatives used to help break up impactions in the horse.
- Walking - Many horses appear to "feel better" if walked and it certainly can prevent a rolling horse from becoming cast or injured on fencing or rocks. However, excessive walking may exhaust a debilitated horse and delay more effective treatment.
- Fluids - Many horses will respond to aggressive IV fluid therapy if they have impactions that don't respond to laxatives
- Surgery - There is no doubt that survival rates following colic surgery are greatly increased the sooner the horse is referred following the onset of clinical signs. That is why a thorough exam is imperative as soon as possible.