What to do if your horse is colicking
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What to do if your horse is colicking

August 17, 2019


Hi, my name is Dr. Lydia Gray. I’m the Staff
Veterinarian here at SmartPak, and today we’re going to talk about colic — what it is, how
to recognize it, what to do and not to do, and what the vet’s going to do when he or
she arrives on the scene. First, let’s talk about what colic is. It
simply means “abdominal pain.” It doesn’t refer to a specific location or a particular
cause, and it can range from mild or transient, maybe you don’t even know it happened, to
a severe, life-threatening, intractable, painful episode with your horse that may or may not
be correctable with surgery. So, it can be life-threatening and it can be very serious,
which is why recognizing it is so important. According to the American Association of Equine
Practitioners, which we shorten to AAEP, about 10 percent of the US equine population experiences
an episode of colic each year, so that’s around 900,000 horses. Quite a few. And again, that’s
why it’s so important to be able to recognize what colic is and then take action immediately. The AAEP has a very extensive list of colic
signs in horses. Some of these include the common pawing and rolling, having a high-heart
rate, having a high respiratory rate, and lip curling, something that my own horse does.
This grimace, also called the Flehman response, is how I recognize abdominal pain in him. If you notice these signs in your horse, the
things to do are: take all food and water away, put your horse somewhere safe for you
and him, collect whatever vital signs you can, and then immediately call your vet, giving
him or her the following information: specific signs of colic and their severity, the pulse
or heart rate in beats per minute, the respiratory rate in breaths per minute, the rectal temperature,
color of the gums — this could be white, pale pink, dark pink, or red or bluish purple
–, the moistness of the gums — moist, tacky or dry -, the refill time for the gum color
called capillary refill time, digestive sounds, if any, bowel movements, including the color,
consistency, and frequency, your horse’s medical history, including deworming and and past
episodes of colic, also add any recent changes in management, feeding, or exercise, the breeding
history and pregnancy status, and the insurance status of the horse. Depending on how much pain your horse is experiencing,
your veterinarian might go right to work treating him and relieving that pain or stop and ask
you some questions, so be prepared for that. Also, be prepared for how invasive and unpleasant,
but necessary and helpful, some of the tests that your veterinarian may do on your horse
are. For example, the rectal palpation, passing a stomach tube, drawing some peritoneal fluid
out of the abdomen called a ‘belly tap,’ and also drawing blood. But these things all help
the veterinarian know will the treatment that we’re using today help the horse resolve the
colic medically — that’s fluid therapy, and the painkillers, and the laxatives — or does
this horse need to be referred to surgery. If so, then if your horse is enrolled in ColiCare,
our $7500 colic surgery reimbursement program, that decision may be easier. I hope this review of colic has been helpful
to you. Above all, stay calm and remain safe.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I was always taught to get him on his feet and walk him until he poops.ย  Or at least until the vet arrives.ย  Do not let him roll.

  2. my horse passed away yesterday and I thought surgery might help. it she didn't think so but he was 22-years-old so he might have died on the operating table RIP Whiskey

  3. My horse is having a colic right now. i hope he will make it to the morning. we do not have vets here where i live.

  4. Always have some Ban amine on hand. It can tell your vet whether or not your horse has a twist or just gas.

  5. Over the years I lost 2 mammoth and one standard donkey to impaction colic caused by a section of the intestine dying,All of them had to be euthanized.All symptoms were identical.I still don't know why.

  6. My horse has mild colic, she is better now and is eating and pooping, but yesterday she didn't want to eat any hay or her dinner just grass, but today she was trotting around with her ears forward and neighing, she was even lying down and having a nap!

  7. Me when my horse sweats the tiniest bit after galloping around with another horse for a while OMG SHE HAS COLIC CALL THE VET IMMEDIATLEY lol

  8. Could it be caused by chemicals in the grass they eat. Run off from other properties near by or from the water ? Just curious why it happens. In so many horses ๐Ÿด๐ŸŽโค๏ธ

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