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Horse Sense: 9. What is Colic?

Colic in horses is essentially a belly ache. Colic can come from several causes. Gas caused from rich feed or abrupt changes in feed is one possibility. Getting into very poor or moldy feed is another common cause. Water or feed given after a heavy workout, before the horse has cooled down, can also precipitate intestinal upset. Lack of activity can further contribute, as the horse was designed to eat while in motion, grazing, rather than standing in a stall all day. Obstructions in the intestines are another cause, which can happen when a horse has gone hungry and eats too much too fast, or does not get enough water to keep his system moving properly. Sand colic is similar, and occurs when a horse is fed on sandy ground, and consumes enough dusty feed to cause an obstruction. Parasites can be another culprit, which must be addressed by a veterinarian.

Symptoms of colic may include restlessness, visible discomfort, pawing at the ground, frequently looking at or kicking at his flanks and belly, and sweating on the neck and flanks. An ear placed to the horse's belly may note an absence of normal gurgling gut sounds. Also, a male horse may extend his penis as if to urinate, but will be able to do so. Finally, if the condition is severe, the horse may repeatedly try to lay down and roll. If a horse will lay quietly, he may be allowed to do so, but if he tries to roll, he must be returned to his feet. The risk here is that he will roll so violently as to twist his gut, which can be fatal. NOTE: unlike dogs or humans, he cannot belch or vomit to relieve such distress, so unless he can pass the obstruction on through, he is in trouble. When colic symptoms are observed, a horse should be taken out and walked on a lead rope, and kept moving and on his feet, until such time as he evacuates his bowels normally, perhaps urinates, and becomes willing to stand and move quietly. This may take from twenty minutes to an hour or so, and can be helped along with an application of mineral oil, administered down the horse's throat. Nowadays there are also relaxing drugs such as Banamine, but back when, folks had to make do with more common remedies. A vet should be consulted in all cases, as the severity of a colic case is not always apparent to the eye.

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In Playlists

Playlist Overview

Last Update: 30 Dec 09
Stories: 4
Type: Reader List
Created By: Elena Tiriel

Non-fiction works about topics useful to writers.

Why This Story?

Helpful information about horses and ponies.


Story Information

Author: ErinRua

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Research Article

Rating: General

Last Updated: 12/17/02

Original Post: 09/24/02

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