Be alert for signs of colic in horses

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Colic is a term used to describe any form of abdominal pain.

It can affect horses of any age, breed and sex, and it is still one of the biggest causes of death in horses.

There are a multitude of causes of colic, most of which are related to the gastrointestinal system.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Signs of colic include:

l Pawing at the ground

l Flank watching

l Lip curling

l Restlessness

l Kicking or biting at belly

l Lying down

l Rolling

l Sweating

l Stretching out as if to urinate

l Depression

l Inappetence

l Reduced faecal output

Causes include intestinal spasms, stretching of the gut wall by gas, an interruption of blood supply to the gut, or part of the intestine becoming stuck.

Occasionally certain non-intestinal conditions, such as laminitis and urinary problems, can present with similar signs to colic.

The majority of colic cases are mild and can be successfully treated medically on the yard.

A survey of UK vets showed that seven per cent of colics require emergency colic surgery. In these cases horses will have to be referred to an equine hospital.

Early diagnosis and surgical treatment is very important to give horses the best chance of survival following colic surgery.

It is therefore vital that a vet is called promptly when a horse shows colic signs in order to assess the severity and start appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

By CHARLOTTE HEWITT DEDMAN, Vet