September 13, 2008 | | Comments 0

Equine Colic: Basic Facts

Equine Colic

Equine Colic

Colic is a general term pertaining to abdominal pain in animals. Horses, in particular, are prone to colic because of their distinctive gastrointestinal anatomy and corollary processes associated with digestion. One should also consider the fact that horses are rather susceptible to the detrimental effects of gastrointestinal parasites such as bacteria, worms, and fungi. In fact, nearly all horses will experience colic at least once in their lives.

Any colic, no matter the degree of severity, requires immediate attention. The more an owner delays treatment, the worse the animal suffers. A good and experienced equine veterinarian is highly recommended for fast and accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment success.

Causes of Equine Colic

Equine colic is attributed to many possibilities. Some of the more common causes are:

* Intestinal diseases

- Flatulence or excessive gas in intestine

- Obstruction in intestine

- Obstruction or interruption to gastrointestinal blood circulation

- Enteritis or inflammation

- Ulceration

- Intestinal parasites

- Sudden changes in diets

* Reproductive tract abnormalities or complications
* Urinary tract stones
* Pleuropneumonia
* Myopathies (e.g. Tying-up syndrome)
* Neurological diseases

Types of Equine Colic

To facilitate diagnosis and treatment, a veterinarian will most likely associate the suspected cause to what type of colic the horse is experiencing:

* Spasmodic
* Ulcerations
* Diarrhea
* Abnormal anatomical gastrointestinal conditions

- Impaction

- Torsion

- Volvulus

- Herniation

- Enterolithiasis

Symptoms of Equine Colic

Characteristic signs and symptoms associated with colic include:

* Initial or mild colic: loss of appetite and water intake, curling of upper lip, pawing at ground with front foot, looking back at abdominal area, kicking with the rear leg at abdomen, distention of abdomen
* Moderate colic: sweating, restlessness, increased discomfort, constant lying down and getting up, attempts to roll from one side to the other, defecation abnormalities such as straining or reduced bowel movement
* Severe colic: rapid breathing, increased sweating, violent behavior or activity associated with severe discomfort felt, cold and clamminess may indicate that animal is going into shock, thus, emergency treatment is a-must!

Treatment of Equine Colic

Depending on the cause and severity of the condition, possible treatments are:

* Spontaneous recovery can occur in a case such as flatulence. There are also simple instances when intervention by the animal owner/handler is enough to fix the condition:

- Do not allow the animal to eat for a certain period of time (6 to 12 hours). Observe the animal for improvement. If animal no longer experiences pain and defecating as it usually does, resume feeds. If none or if condition worsens, call an equine practitioner. In the meantime, do not feed the horse as long as pain is present. Water is allowed though unless gastric reflux (water comes back up and out of mouth) occurs.

- Take the animal for a walk to facilitate digestion when one suspects that dietary changes may be the cause for the colic.

* Medical treatment, provided by an equine veterinarian, generally involves:

- Fluid therapy to correct dehydration and replace ongoing losses, to soften obstructing intestinal content such as hardened fecal matter.

- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)

- Analgesics to reduce pain

- Enterics such as mineral oil as lubricant laxative and magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) to stimulate gastrointestinal movement

- Abdominal, cecal/colonic decompression

- Antibiotics and anti-endotoxin medications

- Antithrombotics

* Surgical treatment is recommended in the following cases:

- Exploratory purposes

- Correction of displaced abdominal organ

- Removal of impacted material, enterolith, or foreign object in the gastrointestinal tract

- Resection of compromised or dead tissue

- Anastomoses or reattachments of severed intestinal tract

- Rerouting of intestinal tract

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Filed Under: Horse Health

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