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  • Alex Scribner

What You Need to Know About Colic

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

I am no stranger to colic, as I’m sure many of you aren’t either. Colic can be incredibly scary as a horse owner. My beloved horse, Farley has endured 2 colic surgeries, and as a result I’m adamant about his care and how I can prevent it from happening again. Let’s dig deeper into this condition, and best practices to help with prevention.

Colic simply refers to abdominal discomfort in the horse. There are many types of colic, including:

  • Impaction

  • Spasmodic

  • Gas

  • Sand

  • Twisted gut

  • Displacement

  • Strangulation

Identification of the cause is essential for successful treatment, recovery and prevention, and it’s absolutely paramount that you involve your veterinarian should your horse colic.

There are several risk factors for colic:

  • Old age

    • 88% of impaction colics occur in older horses vs. 29% of episodes in horses of all ages

  • Dental abnormalities leading to poor chewing

  • Suboptimal forage intake

  • Restricted turnout

  • Feeding more than 6 pounds of concentrate (grain) per any given meal

  • Changing the batch or type of hay or concentrate too quickly

  • Changing stabling conditions

  • Changing quantity or frequency of feeding and feeding times

  • High starch meals

  • Changes in weather

  • Parasites

  • Dehydration

  • Foreign material ingestion

  • Ulcers

Knowing all of this, what can we do about it? Here are several steps you can take to decrease the risk of colic:

  • Annual dental exam

  • Introduce pasture, new hay and new grain slowly, over the course of at least 7 days

  • Divide concentrates (grain) into several small meals

  • Feed forage and high starch meals together

  • Provide continuous fiber meals and pasture when available

  • Deworm based on fecal egg count

  • Feed above ground in a sandy location

  • Alleviate boredom in the stall with hanging toys and hay nets

  • Keep hydrated-encourage drinking by providing daily salt or electrolytes

  • Keep waterers and water buckets clean

  • Consider pre / pro biotics

While I wish we had all the answers to preventing colic from ever happening again, it’s sadly not the reality. So take the above-mentioned steps and fiercely protect your equine partner the best that you can. Knowledge is power!

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