Equine Colic


What is Colic and Ways to Avoid It.


Most every horse owner knows that colic is one of the most common and potentially life threatening emergencies affecting horses. Not everyone knows how to recognize the signs of colic in it’s early stages, or ways to avoid it. Some colics may just be mild “indigestion” while others can be serious torsions (twists of the intestine) that are immediately life threatening. It is impossible to determine what type of colic a horse is experiencing just by watching his symptoms, so every colic should be treated as an emergency. The vet should always be called at the first signs of colic. While a horse may start off with a mild colic easy resolved with minor veterinary treatment, if left untreated it may become life threatening and require emergency surgery.


Common signs of colic include pawing at the ground, rolling, kicking at the belly, biting at the sides, repeatedly getting up and lying down. Horses will usually not eat or drink when colicky and often “look worried”. If you notice your horse doing any of these things, please call us immediately and keep your horse up and walking, if it can be done safely, until we arrive.


While colic cannot be entirely prevented in the horse because of the anatomy and function of the digestive tract, management can reduce the likelihood of colic episodes.


Keeping in mind that not every colic is preventable, the following guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) can maximize the horse’s health and reduce the risk of colic:


  • Establish a daily routine – include feeding and exercise schedules – and stick to it.
  • Feed a high quality diet comprised primarily of roughage.
  • Avoid feeding excessive grain and energy-dense supplements. (At least half the horse’s energy should be supplied through hay or forage. A better guide is that twice as much energy should be supplied from a roughage source than from concentrates.)
  • Divide daily concentrate rations into two or more smaller feedings rather than one large one to avoid overloading the horse’s digestive tract. Hay is best fed free-choice.
  • Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your equine practitioner.
  • Provide exercise and/or turnout on a daily basis. Change the intensity and duration of an exercise regimen gradually.
  • Provide fresh, clean water at all times. (The only exception is when the horse is excessively hot, and then it should be given small sips of luke-warm water until it has recovered.)
  • Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils.
  • Check hay, bedding, pasture, and environment for potentially toxic substances, such as blister beetles, noxious weeds, and other ingestible foreign matter.
  • Reduce stress. Horses experiencing changes in environment or workloads are at high risk of intestinal dysfunction. Pay special attention to horses when transporting them or changing their surroundings, such as at shows.


If you have specific concerns regarding colic and your horse we would be more than happy to discuss them. Call us at 330.410.4899

3578 Hamlin Rd.  Medina, OH 44256   |   330.410.4899

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