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Does Your Horse Have Colic?

Tuesday October 12th, 2021

Does Your Horse Have Colic?

By Jeffrey Richard, Jameson Humane Volunteer

Cary Grant Takes a Road Trip         

Jameson Humane’s caretaking of its many rescued animals includes maintaining their health and providing veterinary treatment whenever needed.  Recently, one of Jameson’s equine residents, Cary Grant, went to U.C. Davis for specialized diagnosis and treatment for a condition that Jameson’s veterinarian suspected was colic – a general label describing gastrointestinal distress or pain in horses and cattle that covers a variety of causes.  On two occasions, Cary had exhibited signs of colic by lying down and biting at his belly shortly after feedings.  The veterinary staff at U.C. Davis narrowed down the cause of Cary’s distress -- eliminating sand impaction, kidney stones or gall stones, and ulcers as possible causes -- and prescribed a change in Cary’s diet. 

The Importance of Treating Colic Immediately

Since colic is often a sign of serious, life-threatening health conditions, the diagnosis of Cary Grant’s symptoms was a great relief to Jameson’s staff and volunteers who care for him.  Colic in horses may result from intestinal twisting or blockage (requiring immediate surgery) to more easily addressed issues such as, in Cary Grant’s case, a need for dietary adjustment.  But according to U.C. Davis’s Center for Equine Health in its article, Colic: An Age-Old Problem, colic is considered the most common cause of death in adult horses. A 2014 article published by BMC Veterinary Research noted research findings that colic-caused losses cost the U.S. equine industry more than $115 million per year.  The article states that prompt veterinary treatment of colic is essential: “Additionally, veterinary attendance can alleviate pain with prompt treatment; therefore, it is important that horse-owners/primary-caretakers are aware of colic signs as they play a critical role in initiating veterinary intervention.” The full article provides insight into colic, its symptoms and its treatment: https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1746-6148-10-S1-S1

How Can You Tell If Your Horse Suffers from Colic?

You should seek veterinary attention if your horse exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Pawing at the ground
  • Flank watching
  • Kicking or biting at the belly
  • Repeated lying down
  • Rolling
  • Holding head in unusual position
  • Repeated curling back of upper lip
  • Sweating
  • Stretching out as if to urinate
  • Dog sitting
  • Lying on back
  • Depression
  • Poor appetite