Most horses will suffer from colic at some point in their lives. There are a huge number of possible causes for colic and they vary greatly in severity however they can all share similar symptoms. It is very important that you are able to recognise the signs of colic so your horse can receive the appropriate medical care as soon as possible.
What is colic?
Colic itself is not a disease but is a term used to describe abdominal (belly) pain in horses.
Signs of mild colic
- Pawing or scraping the ground.
- Turning the head to look at the abdomen (‘flank watching’).
- Kicking or biting at the abdomen.
- Stretching out as if needing to urinate.
- Restlessness – getting up and down frequently
Signs of severe colic
- Lying on its back.
- Recumbencey (unable to stand)
- Increased respiration rate
- Increased heart rate
- Red/purple colour of mucous membranes (gums and eyes)
What causes colic?
There are many causes of colic and it is often impossible to pinpoint the exact cause. However, there are a few risk factors:
- Change in diet
- Change in management
- Change in exercise
- Heavy worm burden
What should I do if I think my horse has colic?
- Remove any feed from your horse and contact us for advice.
- If you are able to, take your horses temperature, heart rate and respiration rate.
- If your horse is rolling, keep your distance and stay away from harm. When possible remove any objects that may injure your horse while rolling.
- If the colic is mild and your horse is calm it is acceptable for them to lay down quietly in their stable.
- In some cases hand walking your horse may ease mild colic signs and reduce their urge to roll.
- Your horse may become more violent and distressed, desperately wanting to go down and roll. In this case it may be safer for you and them to let them roll in a well bedded stable than it would be for them to go down while walking in the yard.
- Do not give your horse any medication unless instructed to by your vet. Some drugs, particularly finadyne, can mask colic signs and prevent an accurate diagnosis.