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.
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).