Owning a horse isn't the same as having a smaller pet like a dog or a cat, which requires less maintenance. There is a lot of care that goes into taking proper care of a horse. A significant part of that is maintaining their health. Colic is an illness that you might deal with as a horse owner.
Treating a horse that has colic can quickly become an overwhelming situation, but you can take steps to control the situation. A full understanding of preventing horse colic, horse colic systems, horse colic treatments, and potentially colic in horses is the best way to be equipped for caring for your horse. To learn everything you need to know about horse colic, continue to read the guide below.
There isn't just one type of colic, and knowing the difference between the different types will affect the causes and treatment. Here are the most common types of horse colic:
Displacement colic refers to the displacement of the small intestine, which can quickly become twisted due to its position free-floating in the gut. While this is most common with the small intestine, the large intestine can also become displaced. This type of colic can be caused by gas build up in the gut. This makes the intestines buoyant and more subject to movement inside of the abdomen. Displacement requires a more intense treatment, which means that it can only be done via surgery. This surgery repositions the small intestine and may also be needed to remove any damaged portions of the intestine, which can sometimes occur because of reduced blood flow.
The large intestine folds upon itself with impaction colic, resulting in both changes in direction and a change in diameter. This makes an impaction more likely. Several feed-related issues can cause the impaction itself. Most commonly, things like coarse feed, foreign materials like sand, and dehydration can cause build-up or blockage.
Gas colic simply refers to the build-up of gas in the gut, causing the stomach to distend, ultimately resulting in pain. This is usually caused by a build-up of bacteria resulting from contaminated food or water sources. Even overeating good quality feed can contribute to causing gas colic, so paying close attention to your horse's feeding patterns is essential. Treating gas colic involves a stomach tube being inserted by a professional veterinarian to relieve the pressure.
This type of colic refers to spasms, or painful contractions, of the intestine muscles. This has frequently been compared to indigestion in people and is easily treated. The causes for this type can be as simple as overexcitement or even stress, so paying close attention to your horse's behavior and the mood is the best way to detect spasmodic colic.
Enteritis refers to the inflammation, usually due to bacteria, of the intestine. A tainted food supply or overeating most commonly causes this. This colic type can potentially be challenging to detect, simply because the symptoms are very similar to impaction or displacement colic.
So, what causes colic in horses? Colic is defined as abdominal pain, although many horse owners will refer to any problems related to the gastrointestinal tract as colic. There are numerous causes for colic, but in most cases, they are related to the anatomy and microflora in the horse's digestive tract. Other common causes include:
Learning what to look for when trying to determine a case of colic is essential, since catching colic early is ideal. If you know exactly what to look for, you'll move on quickly to treatment and future prevention. Symptoms of colic in horses include:
These are all common symptoms of colic in adult horses, but foals can also get colic. They exhibit different symptoms than adult horses, however. Instead, a foal may show they have colic by lying on their backs with their legs tucked underneath them.
If you've successfully identified a colic case for your horse, the next step is determining a treatment. Treatments are directly related to the cause of each particular instance of colic. Not every treatment is created equal. If you pursue the incorrect treatment in response to a certain type of colic, it can make the condition much worse.
In some cases, it can be challenging to determine the cause of the colic. Even if you are sure of the cause, it's much safer to have a veterinary professional evaluate your horse to confirm the cause and prescribe the correct treatment. This is also important because the severity of your horse's symptoms isn't necessarily related to the colic's severity. It's entirely possible that if you observe only mild symptoms, the colic could be worse than you think. Some cases can be successfully treated with medication, while more severe cases could potentially require immediate surgery. While waiting for a professional opinion from your veterinarian, you should do the following:
All in all, colic is a very treatable and preventable condition. Many of the symptoms are also easy to recognize as something that is out of the ordinary, so being informed about the types of colic that exist and symptoms, causes, and treatments is practically a guarantee that your horse will have a successful recovery.
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