Horse Colic - Symptoms and Solutions

You probably have heard of babies having colic, but you may not know that horses can have colic as well. Colic is a term that many vets use to describe any type of abdominal pain. Your horse can have colic because of many different things. The horse can be suffering due to feeding practices, gas, or intestinal problems. While it is important to get your horse to a vet if you think he or she is suffering from colic, you can also do a few things to recognize and relieve the problem. Because a horse’s digestive system is easily disrupted, some horses will even die of colic.

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What causes colic in horses?

The number one reason horses suffer with colic is because of inappropriate feeding management. It is important for you to feed your horse in appropriate manners. For instance, if you have irregular feeding times, lack of water, excess water, excess grain, or use moldy feed, you are putting your horse at risk. If your horse has bad teeth and cannot properly chew the food, he can be at risk.

Horses that are off feed may sometime overeat on grain and this can be a problem. If you give your horse coarse roughage like coastal hay, you will need to watch to make sure colic is not a problem. You also need to be sure you don’t feed your horse anywhere near sand.

Sometimes horses will have colic because they have consumed a foreign object. Your horse may have eaten a piece of trash that was in the pasture or something in the stable. You should always be sure to clean the pastures and the stables so this does not cause colic or chocking issues.

Other times horses will get colic because of parasites, of which the owner may have no idea where they came from.

Symptoms: How do I know my horse has colic?

When your horse has colic, you may not notice anything major with their behavior. Other times you will notice strange behavior right away. Sometimes the horse will be seen putting its mouth in water to play for no apparent reason. They may also curl their lip or refuse to eat. You may see your horse biting its flanks or looking at its stomach. This is a major sign that tells you something is going on. If you are really familiar with your horse, you may also notice that the horse has a grimace on its face.

If you don’t notice the early symptoms listed above, you may find yourself with a horse that has more moderate symptoms. You may see the horse rolling around, pawing at its stomach, or just being in a constant state or restlessness. Your horse may stand with its legs stretched out constantly. It may be sweating more than normal, have a temperature, or an abnormal pulse rate. Some horses will be depressed, not defecate, or maybe not even eat. When things get to this point, it is urgent you see a vet right away.

Treatment: How do I get rid of my horse's colic?

When you notice these symptoms you should stop feeding your horse or allowing it to drink. Get to the vet right away. If your horse is trying to roll around or is very restless, try walking it around to relieve gas if that is the problem. If the horse seems to want to be alone, by all means, just sit back and leave it alone. Once you get in touch with your vet, he or she might treat the horse by using a nasogastric tube that will relieve gas. They may also prescribe a pain medication for your horse or sedation so they can properly examine the horse. If your horse is dehydrated, an I.V. may be administered. In some cases surgery is necessary, however horses that have intestinal problems and need this type of surgery only have a 50 percent survival rate and only 15-20 percent of those that do survive live over a year.

So, when you are a horse owner, you really have to be aware of how your horse typically acts and how they act when they are ill. You should always get your horse on a vet recommended feeding schedule that works best for you and your horse. When you practice proper feeding management, you will find that you don’t need to worry about things like colic as much as those that don’t have healthy feeding practices.


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