Thursday, June 26, 2008

What causes colic?

I guess this is just about the most common question asked, probably because colic is the #1 killer of horses and the most common fear of horse owners (and rightly so).

Colic is actually just a symptom, not a condition itself. It's a symptom of pain in the abdomen, which can be caused by dozens of things. Some of the things that can cause colic are: too much feed or too rich of a feed, spoiled or moldy feed, changing to a new or different feed too suddenly, not enough water to drink, a hot horse drinking cold water, fear, anxiety and stress, eating a poisonous plant, tetanus, as well as diseases of the internal organs such as the stomach, liver or kidneys. Those are just a few causes of colic. Only a veterinarian can tell you what probably caused the colic.

Horses have extremely sensitive and delicate digestive systems that are designed to live on almost constant grazing of varying types of grasses, and a lot of dry grasses. Pastures of rich, green grass and sweetened commercial horse feeds contain way too much sugar for the horses digestive system. Domesticated horses are so much more at risk of getting foods that are too rich for them to handle, whether we give it to them or they break into the feed bin.

Colic is an emergency. If your horse shows signs of colic, you should call the veterinarian immediately. Do not allow the horse to lie down or roll.

(*Side Note: a lot of people ask why you can't let a horse roll. Don't you hate it when people tell you to do something or not to do something and don't tell you why? So do I! So, I'll tell you why: The reason you can't let a colicky horse roll is because an average sized horses intestines are about 100 feet long and they are not attached to anything inside the stomach cavity, (they are basically "free floating"), so when a horse is in pain, they often thrash and roll violently and roll often. The rolling over and over part can cause their intestines to actually fold over on themselves or get twisted and twisted intestines are almost always fatal. That's why you should never allow a colicking horse to roll. Interesting, huh?)

So...if your horse colics, call the vet, make sure you stay calm, (which will help the horse to stay calmer), keep a halter on them, keep them on their feet and walk them at their own pace until the vet arrives.

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Please feel free to email me your horse questions and I'll do my best to answer them or at least point you to someone or someplace that can. (Scroll down to the "About Me" section and click on "View my complete profile" to send me an email) I look forward to hearing from you! ~Melanie