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Gut Feelings- an article about colic in horses.
The word colic strikes fear into many horse owners. Colic isn’t a disease but just a term for abdominal pain. It’s thought that about 10% of horses a year are affected but the majority of those can be managed medically with only about a fifth needing surgery. The causes of colic are varied from impaction, spasm of the gut, and enteritis through to twisted guts which can be catastrophic if left. So what should you look out for, what should you do and can you do anything to prevent it?
Signs are varied and cases may have one or several signs in varying degrees of severity so try to know your horse so you know when any of these signs may be relevant;
· Kicking the belly, looking round at the flank.
· Restlessness and getting up and down. Many try to roll frequently.
· Stretching, standing as if to urinate, pawing or stamping the ground.
· Heavy breathing or blowing, sweating, raised temperature.
If you’re concerned don’t panic but unless the signs are extremely mild it is best to call your vet. Some cases of colic are genuine emergencies. In the meantime follow these steps to help stop the situation from worsening;
· Take all food away and try to stop them nibbling bedding. You can allow a small amount of water.
· Try to stop your horse from rolling but if this is impossible try to make sure they are in a place where no physical harm can come from it.
· Walking may help to alleviate the signs but don’t walk them endlessly as this could tire them and make them weaker if surgery is necessary.
· Don’t try to administer colic remedies before the vet has examined the horse and try to have a good idea of anything that may have sparked it off, what signs you’ve seen and how long it’s been going on so you’re vet gets a good history to work on.
Colic is a fact of life for many horses but there are certain things you can do to help prevent it;
· Always have access to clean water.
· Do not feed mouldy food.
· Turnout as much as possible.
· Feed grain little and often.
· Feed hay before grain to aid digestion.
· Try to make sure about 60% of digestible energy is from forage rather than grain.
· Regular and effective worming which is best discussed with your vet.
· Keep exercise and diet consistent and make any dietary changes very gradually.
Many cases of colic are quickly resolved with treatment but colic can be fatal in some cases. As always with your beloved pets, if you’re in any doubt at all, your vet would rather you be safe than sorry.