What is Equine Colic

What is Equine Colic

  • Colic is defined as generalized acute abdominal pain and is the most frequent emergency encountered in equine practice.
  • here are multiple types of colic involving one or more portions of the gastrointestinal tract. Common terms used to describe types of colic would include:
  • Gas colic – distension or bloating
  • Impaction – collection of hardened feces that has slowed progression (constipation)
  • Torsion/Volvulus – twisting of a loop of intestine causing obstruction (‘twisted gut’)
  • Displacement – movement of a loop of intestine to an abnormal location or position
  • Intussusception – prolapse of one part of the intestine into the lumen of an adjacent part (telescoping)
  • Obstruction – enterolith, fecolith, foreign body.
  • Signs of colic: inappetence (off feed), depression, pawing, flipping up upper lip, grinding teeth, flank watching, stretching out, sweating, rolling, or laying down. Each horse will exhibit signs of abdominal pain differently, which may include all, or none of these symptoms.
  • During the physical exam you may find an increase in heart rate, decrease in gut sounds, distention/bloating, dry mucus membranes, color change in mucus membranes, dehydration-increase in skin tugor, decrease or absence in fecal output.

What should you do if your horse shows signs of colic?

  • Call your veterinarian.
  • Take the heart rate, and remove the feed.
  • Hand-walk the horse at normal walking pace (no trotting or lunging) to help alleviate the pain.
  •   Wait for further instructions from your veterinarian.

*We do not recommend administering any medications without consulting your veterinarian first. Doing this could cause a masking of clinical signs which could make your veterinarians diagnosis more difficult.

What to expect if the veterinarian comes out to treat your horse?

  • Physical exam: temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, evaluate gut motility, check skin tugor, capillary refill time, mucus membrane.
  • Passage of nasogastric tube into the stomach may be required plus or minus administration of mineral oil through the tube.
  • Analgesics (pain relief) such as flunixin meglumine (Banamine) may be administered. Other procedures may need to be preformed determined by severity of colic.


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