What is Colic in Horses?

What is Colic in Horses?

Colic is a common medical issue among horses. While most cases can be managed medically, some may require emergency surgery for treatment.

Horses displaying signs of colic should be examined by their veterinarian promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment will improve the horse’s chances for a successful recovery.


Colic is a common issue among horses, and it’s essential to identify its causes. There could be many potential causes for colic, and if not diagnosed and addressed promptly, colic could prove fatal for your horse.

often indicates an underlying disease or injury to their intestines. If left untreated, colic could become a serious issue requiring surgical intervention.

Horses may experience several types of colic, including gas colic, obstructive lesions, and functional obstructions.

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Gas colic is the most common type of colic and occurs when there’s too much gas in your stomach. This often results from overeating fermentable feeds like grains, grass, or beet pulp. Signs include intense abdominal pain, an elevated heart rate, retching, and distention in the stomach.

Obstructive lesions are caused when a foreign object or parasite enters the digestive system. This often happens during chewing on something or playing with a stick, but it can also occur due to sudden changes in diet (whether type or quantity) or overfeeding of one type or variety of grain in one meal.

These types of colic can usually be treated medically by inserting a stomach tube and administering medications. If left untreated, the intestine could become obstructed, and the horse could succumb to their condition.

One more serious cause of colic is a twisted gut, which occurs when the intestine rotates around its attachment to the abdominal wall. This restricts blood flow to the intestine and leads to tissue death.

The horse’s digestive system is highly sensitive to foreign objects, so you must keep bailing twine, plastic bottles, and other objects out of its stall or pasture. Contact a vet immediately if you observe any unusual changes in your horse’s bowel movements.

Maintaining the horse’s environment clean and free of obstructions that could obstruct their gastrointestinal tract can help prevent colic. Make sure the feed box and hay rack are dry, free from mold or dust, while keeping accurate records about their management and diet can also help.


Colic is an uncomfortable condition in which horses experience abdominal pain. This could be caused by various issues with the digestive tract or problems with the equine kidneys or reproductive tract.

Colic symptoms can range from mild to severe. Horses that are suffering may not eat or drink much, paw at their stomachs, sweat in patches or look at their flanks; they may also want to roll or refuse to stand up.

Most cases of colic resolve within a few days, but some can be more serious and even life-threatening. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, contact your veterinarian immediately.

If your veterinarian suspects the cause of your horse’s symptoms, they will conduct a comprehensive physical examination to pinpoint the location and extent of the issue. Once identified, treatment can begin promptly.

Obstructive lesions are the most common type of colic and may include impaction (digestive material physically blocking passage) and strangulating obstructive lesions (a twist in the intestines that prevents passage). Almost all cases of non-strangulating obstructive lesions respond well to medical or surgical treatment, though surgical solutions may sometimes be required in some cases.

Other obstructive lesions, such as lipomas (benign fatty tumors), are more complicated. These benign growths can wrap around sections of the intestine, cutting off blood supply and causing intense abdominal pain.

This condition is commonly observed in older horses and typically requires surgery to remove the tumor and damaged portions of the intestine.

Some obstructive lesions, such as impaction, can be managed by administering fecal-softening agents through a stomach tube. Medicines like mineral oil, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, or psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid are used to soften the impacted material and allow for its passage through the stomach tube.

It is essential that your horse’s routine not be disrupted by travel or changes in diet, water and hay types. Doing so could increase the likelihood that your horse develops colic, so be mindful when making any adjustments to their feeding or management schedule.

The best way to prevent colic is to feed your horse a balanced, high-fiber diet and refrain from overfeeding or substituting hard feeds for hay. Stress can also contribute to colic, so try your best to keep your horse as calm and relaxed as possible.

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Colic can be a frightening experience for , but the diagnosis is usually straightforward. Most horses that present with colic have some digestive issue – this could be caused by an enlarged bowel or something more serious like a tumor, abscess, or infection.

When your horse exhibits signs of colic, you must contact your veterinarian immediately. Colic can become a medical emergency and lead to death if left untreated.

Your vet will examine your horse carefully, looking for any signs that indicate an intestinal problem. He or she will examine its feces, pulse and respiration; if there has been no food or drink recently, they’ll also inspect its skin and feces for indications of previous colic episodes.

If the veterinarian detects your horse exhibiting any of these symptoms, they will begin treatment. Medication will be given to control pain and help the animal relax. In some cases, medications like banamine (flunixine meglamine) may be prescribed to keep your horse from colicking.

A veterinarian can detect whether your horse has colic by physically examining the abdomen. They may perform a rectal exam and insert a nasogastric tube into the stomach to check for excess fluid buildup there.

A vet may also be able to detect other potential issues by performing an abdomen ultrasound. An ultrasound can reveal whether a tumor or small intestinal lesion is causing colic symptoms.

Sometimes the issue is more serious and requires surgery to resolve. Surgeons may need to remove the affected portion of the intestine or anus to correct the situation and prevent your horse from experiencing colic again.

Another condition that may cause colic is meconium impaction. This occurs when the intestines cannot pass a certain amount of food and begin to swell. It usually results in symptoms within 12-24 hours.


A variety of causes can cause and is extremely painful. To determine the cause of colic symptoms and get treatment started quickly, consult with a veterinarian immediately.

When diagnosing colic in your horse, the initial step is a physical examination that includes a rectal exam. Furthermore, the veterinarian will auscultate the stomach and percuss (tap lightly on the stomach area to listen for specific sounds) the abdomen to identify what’s causing the discomfort.

Once the cause of colic has been identified, your veterinarian can suggest a course of treatment. Oftentimes, medications will be combined to relieve pain and inflammation. In severe cases, surgery may be required to decompress or remove any impacted material.

Some medications to relieve colic include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication like Banamine (flunixine meglumine). Fluids, electrolytes and/or mineral oil may also be administered via a nasogastric tube placed into the horse’s stomach.

In most cases, this procedure can provide relief of colic symptoms within a short time. However, further treatment at a veterinary referral center may be necessary if the condition worsens.

If the cause of the colic is severe, a veterinarian may also detect intussusception. This condition occurs when part of the horse’s intestine telescopes into another portion and cuts off blood supply to that portion. Left untreated, this could prove fatal for the horse.

Another cause of colic is sand or feed blockage in the large intestine, which typically results from excessive amounts of digested food mixed with sand or dirt.

Fecal-softening agents such as lubricants and dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, along with psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid, can be given through a nasogastric catheter to loosen this material and make it easier for horses to pass it.

can be caused by several parasites, including small strongyles that burrow into the gut lining and release secretory material that irritates the digestive tract. In severe cases, these parasites may even cut off all blood supply to the entire gastrointestinal tract.

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