Colic

The word colic describes pain within the abdomen. Colic is a symptom which has many potential causes, some of which can be life-threatening. Colic is usually due to problems with the gastrointestinal tract (gut); however, in some cases it can be due to pain originating from other organs in the abdomen such as the kidneys, bladder or liver.

Signs

Horses may show one or a number of the following symptoms:

  • Dullness, depression and lack of appetite
  • Pawing at the ground, kicking or looking at their abdomen (flank-watching)
  • Restlessness, repeated standing and lying down
  • Excessive rolling and/or sweating
  • Depression with signs of previous severe pain (sweating, covered in mud/bedding)
  • The signs can vary greatly between horses and range from subtle to severe.

What to do:

  • Ensure your own safety – horses with colic can sometimes react violently.  NEVER HANDLE OR GO NEAR THE HORSE IF IT IS NOT SAFE TO DO SO.
  • Call the vet as soon as possible and take further advice. It can be very difficult to distinguish mild cases of colic from severe ones in the early stages.
  • Remove food and any objects such as buckets that the horse may injure itself on.
  • In mild cases, horses may be walked gently to relieve pain, otherwise put the horse in a suitable, safe place such as a well bedded stable, outdoor school or paddock until the vet can attend.
  • Do not try to stop your horse from rolling; it does not increase the risk of the gut twisting but it will increase the risk of you getting hurt.
  • Whilst you are waiting for the vet you can do a number of things that will save valuable time should your horse need referral to a hospital for specialist treatment:
    • Ensure the horse’s owner is contactable.
    • Arrange transport so it is ready to go if the horse needs to be referred for surgery (fill up with fuel, hook up trailer, check horsebox starts etc).
    • Inform your insurance company if possible and applicable.
  • Get any personal belongings you require for a journey (money, phone etc) and make any necessary arrangements (childcare, other pets etc).

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