STEVE: Colic is a term used in horseman and horsemanship to describe anything that creates abdominal pain or discomfort. It can be something as simple as a horse just basically striking at their stomach or their abdomen with the hind leg. Or just turning around looking at it and knowing that they’re not comfortable with the most severe symptoms being that the horse will essentially lay down and flip and roll over in order to try to relief themself.

One of the early signs you see of a horse when they are showing more increased severity besides looking at their side or striking at their stomach, would be they will stretch and try to relieve themselves and then go so far as to even urinate to try to get something to pass on. Even though they may not be able to pass any manure on, they will go and urinate. Obviously, the longer this goes on, the more severe the signs, the higher the pulse rate goes, the more they tend to want to get down and move and try to manipulate their GI tract to get some relief. Eventually, if this is not under control as far as symptoms are concerned, it may have to go so far as to get surgical intervention in order to relieve them.

ALEX: It was really important with horses when we were trained if we saw any signs of a possible colic situation was, obviously, one: call your veterinarian. But we would get the horse out of the stall, walk around. A lot of times in a big barn, when we fed and there was some anxiety at feed time, a horse would get what we would call a gas colic. They would get upset, they would get anxious because they were going to eat, and they would start pawing the ground. They might get a little hot on their neck. They were obviously uncomfortable, so we would get them out of the stall, walk them for 15 or 20 minutes, and sometimes that would take care of the situation. But it is something that I think is really important to address right away. Don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian.

STEVE: You definitely need to because it can get severe quickly. Do not be real fast about using medications, because it can cover up symptoms and really complicate the picture for when a professional gets there.

ALEX: Yeah.

STEVE: Plus, a lot of people will get on the trigger way too quick and use Banamine and sometimes tranquilizers. I’m a bigger fan, if you’re going to do anything, give them maybe a little bit of Rompun, if you have it, or Xylazine. Severity can be from something as simple as when you feed early, if the horse has some ulcers, they’ll show you some discomfort. If they’re a cribber they’ll tend to build up some gas. All the way to displacement of the colon or basically a circulatory problem where they have a dead piece of bowel in there that has lost circulation to it. So, it can be as severe as from something that will need surgical intervention all the way back to maybe just a little bit of mild medication in order to cure it. So, it’s something that needs to be evaluated as soon as possible by a professional who’ll know what the severity is going to be.

ALEX: As far as prevention of colic, what do you feel is important for a horse? Obviously they need a certain amount of roughage. Are there things that could lead a horse to be more predisposed to colic?

STEVE: Well, yeah, everything from when you don’t worm. If their teeth are bad. If they are predisposed or have ulcers. It could be a laundry list. You really open up a can of worms here, but the bottom line is that anything that would cause a disruption in the nutrient flow through the GI tract, normal flow, could basically cause a displacement, a blockage, a circulatory problem. Anything as far as with their teeth is concerned. So, it is multifactorial, but obviously all the other things that you think about. Maintaining good diet and plenty of roughage, this sort of thing. Plenty of water. They can contribute to potential impaction and/or displacement for colic.