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Can you Prevent Colic? – Colic in Horses?
How to prevent Colic?

Can you prevent Colic? Colic in Horses?
How to prevent Colic?
By: Allen Financial Insurance Group

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Colic — The very word makes you shudder. It seems to happen at any time and place and to any horse. As common as colic is, it remains misconstrued and lacks singular explanation. Thousands of dollars have been invested in colic studies, yet it is still an offender of even the healthiest horses.

Taber’s Medical Dictionary defines colic as a spasm of any soft or hollow organ, such as the abdomen, that is accompanied by pain (F.A. Davis Co. 1989). The American Association of Equine Practitioners classifies colic in horses into three groups; intestinal dysfunctions, intestinal accidents and enteritis or ulcerations.

Classifying Colic

There are a myriad of causes, but most colics fall under these three groups; Intestinal Dysfunction – This is the most common category and simply means the horse’s bowels are not working properly. It includes such things as gas distention, impaction, spasms and paralysis.

Intestinal Accidents – These occur less frequently and include displacements, torsions and hernias, whereby sections of the intestine become trapped or pinched in body cavities. These almost always require emergency surgery.

Enteritis or Ulcerations – These are colics related to inflammations, infections and lesions within the digestive tract. They can be caused by numerous factors including stress, disease, salmonellosis and parasites.

Colic appears to be preceded by many complicated factors, and moreover is a major cause of disease and death. You are forlorned; your hands are tied behind your back as you watch colic spontaneously attack the horses you have so diligently tried to keep healthy.

There are many signs of colic including repeatedly lying down and getting up or attempting to do so, rolling, sitting in a dog-like position or lying on the back. Talk to your veterinarian about other signs of colic.

But are you truly helpless? Can you do something to prevent colic from affecting your horses?

According to a colic study by Dr. Noah Cohen from Texas A & M University, there are preventative measures you can take to avoid colic occurrence. This unique study went beyond the laboratory and into private practices throughout Texas to determine whether or not management factors influence the onset of colic.

“Studies at veterinary hospitals represent only a small, selected subset of the general equine population,” Dr. Cohen comments. “We conducted a study to investigate the cases of equine colic treated of actual, practicing veterinarians.” Researchers wanted to identify factors related to medical history, husbandry and health management that might induce the chance of colic in a horse. They evaluated a variety of situations including logistics of farm environment, stabling conditions, feed management, health and dental care, and recent transport or change in diet and activity. Eighty-two veterinarians provided data from 821 horses with colic for specific management factors for a 15 month period.

The participating veterinarians were asked to record various data from colic cases. Colic was defined as a horse giving signs of intra-abdominal pain. They were then asked to record the same data for a non-colic case (such as a laceration or lameness treatment) that immediately followed the call to the colic case. The latter data was used as a “control” to the colic results to obviate any seasonal bias in choosing the comparison population.

The results are unequivocal. Horses with a history of colic are six times more likely to develop colic again. Horses with previous abdominal surgery are five times more likely to develop colic. However, these antecedents are non-alterable risk factors.

Three management factors are found to influence colic onset. Change in diet seems to significantly increase the illness. Horses that had a change in stabling conditions two weeks prior to the time of examination have a higher probability of colicking also. In addition, a change in activity tends to induce the chance of colic onset.

“A recent change in diet is the most important management factor that predisposes horses to developing colic,” Dr. Cohen notes. “In fact, having a recent change in diet appears to double the risk of colic. However, because the study was so extensive, we were unable to examine detailed dietary practices that predispose horses to colic. We are seeking funding for these studies that will provide specific, practical suggestions for horse owners.”

So if you avoid changing your horse’s feed, you’ll never have a colicky horse — right? No. Though not found to be associated with colic, sound management factors such as deworming, dentistry and vaccination should always be integrated by every horse owner.

“We believe that preventive medicine is essential for decreasing the burden of disease in horses,” Dr. Cohen adds. “Good, consistent management has important health and economic consequences.”

For more information on colic, please contact the American Association of Equine Practitioners for a brochure on understanding colic, the digestive tract and its function, at; AAEP 4075 Iron Works Pike Lexington, KY 40511 (606) 233-0147

Can You Prevent Colic? – Colic Prevention:

Colic indicates a painful problem in a horse’s abdomen. Horses are naturally prone to colic and many types of colic cannot be prevented. However, there are some relatively simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of colic in your horse. The following nine steps are recommendations summarized from numerous research studies evaluating several risk factors for colic in horses. Following these nine steps should reduce the risk of colic, but are not guaranteed to eliminate it.

1. Always have fresh, clean water available

Offer fresh, clean water at all times. Use stock tank cleaners to keep troughs clean and free from insects. Hang or use a water bucket in your horse stall and fill it daily to encourage your horse to drink.

2. Allow pasture turnout

Horses that have access to pastures have been shown to have a lower colic risk than those without pasture access. Offer frequent, if not continual, pasture turnout. Daily exercise is very important.

3. Avoid feeding on the ground in sandy areas.

Horses may ingest enough sand to irritate their intestines. Feed in tubs or hay racks. Place rubber mats or catch pans underneath racks to enable horses to get the scraps without getting sand.



4. Feed grain and pelleted feeds only as needed

Feed a high quality, roughage-rich diet. Grass is best, followed by hay. Grass or hay should always be available. Feed smaller amounts of grain unless work demands or your veterinarian suggests more.

5. Watch horses carefully for colic following changes in exercise, stabling, or diet.

Make only gradual changes in diet, housing, and exercise whenever possible. To make changes in feed, mix ¼ new with ¾ old for about seven days, then increase the percent of new feed gradually.

6. Horse’s teeth should be floated every six months.

Arrange for regular dental checkups. Properly aligned teeth are better at chewing food, which leads to improved digestion and less chance of impaction.


7. Control parasites.

Regularly deworm your horse with a suitable Ivermectin-based wormer. In addition, pyrantel-based continuous wormers may also help control internal parasites. Remove weeds and other indigestible substances from hay, bedding, and pasture grass. Suitable perimeter sprays and traps can kill insects before they invade your horse’s hay or stall bedding.

8. Closely monitor your horse.

Owners who take great interest in their horse’s care on a day-to-day basis have fewer incidences of colic. Early signs of impaction colic include dry fecal balls or fecal balls that are smaller than usual. 

9. Mimic Nature

Mimic natural grazing schedules by feeding two or three smaller portions of grain throughout the day, as opposed to one single feeding that overloads the digestive tract.

Can You Prevent Colic?

Prevent Colic - Colic in Horses -Can you prevent colic

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Prevent Colic - Colic in Horses -Can you prevent colic

Prevent Colic - Colic in Horses -Can you prevent colic