Horse Colic is a term used to describe a variety of abdominal discomforts; colic can be anything from gas, a twisted intestine, an enterolith, to worm infestations.
Colic is the number one death in horses.
Colic can be caused by a number of things. Here are some of the more common causes:
Over Feeding: If your horse gets into the feed and gorges itself, colic can be a result of that.
Fine Grain: Sometimes fine grain will pack together and cause blockages in the intestine.
Sand Colic: When horses are feed on a sandy ground and ingest that sand through their feed,
over time, the sand will build up in the intestines and eventually cause blockage.
Bad Feed: Moldy or rotten feed can sometimes cause colic.
Ingestion of Non-feed materials: Twine, stones, and sticks are some examples. Cribbers or horses that chew on a wooden stall have a risk of swallowing bits and getting colic.
Sudden changes in feed: Introduce new feed slowly. Example: if your horse is use to eating a grass hay and you change over to alfalfa, do it slowly.
Parasitism: Worm infestations disrupt circulation in the intestines, or blood cots and bits of dead worms may cause blockage.
Twisted Intestine: This is very severe and can be life threatening. There are a variety of twists in different areas of a horse’s abdomen.
Most colic’s can be classified as one of the following three types:
Enteritis or Ulcerations: This type of colic is caused by infections, inflammations, and disease in the intestine, which can be caused by parasites and stress.
Intestinal Accidents: This type of colic is caused by an injury or tear to the intestines.
Intestinal Dysfunction: The horse’s digestive tract is not working correctly. Impaction, paralysis, and excessive gas are examples. This type of colic is the most common type.
The first noticeable signs of colic will be the lack of interest in eating or drinking. His/her temperature might be slightly higher than normal. You will soon notice the swishing of his/her tail, stomping of the hind leg, turn and look at his/her belly and nip and his/her sides. As the pain increases, the horse may kick at its belly, want to but unable to have a bowel movement. And as this worsens, your horse will eventually start to roll or thrash back and forth on the ground. NEVER let a horse that is colicking thrash or roll, because it could twist an intestine and cause serious injury.
If you suspect that your horse has colic, contact our office immediately at 505-869-2627. A simple colic can turn deadly without prompt attention. If your horse is already thrashing and rolling on the ground, get him/her up quickly and contact our office. Please remember that a colic horse can be very dangerous so be careful when trying to help your horse. If you are unable to get the horse up and he/she is pounding their head against the ground put a pillow or something soft under it until our vet can get to you. Our doctor will examine your horse and decide at that point what the best form of treatment will be for that type of colic.
Only about 10% of horses die from colic, yet it is still the leading natural killer in horses. Colic’s due to torsions and intestinal twists are nearly 100% fatal unless promptly treated. If the colic is bad and requires surgery, please decide quickly if you want to save the horse or not. For two reasons.
1. The quicker the response the better chance you have saving the horse.
2. Colics are very painful to the horse and if surgery is not an option, euthanasia is a very humane option for this type of animal.
If you have any further questions about colic, please contact our office at