Horse owners are reminded to keep an eye out for the symptoms of colic

As the temperature drops in the Ozarks it’s important for farmers and ranchers to watch for horse colic, abdominal pain and discomfort in equines.

Kris Hiney grew up around horses and has seen colic firsthand in her herd at Oklahoma State University as well as in horses from her childhood. Colic symptoms can range anywhere from abdominal pain, a twisted stomach or impaction in horses. Colic can cause a horse mild discomfort to fatality to anything in between.

Hiney, an assistant professor and extension equine specialist for the Oklahoma State University Department of Animal and Food Sciences, said there are two types of horse colic: mild and severe.

Mark Russell, an associate professor, equine extension specialist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, said the term “colic” is essentially describing abdominal pain.

“[Colic] is not a specific disease or virus for the horse,” Russell said.

“Symptoms of mild horse colic includes, not cleaning up feed and just acting a little bit differently. Severe horse colic would be the case if the horse was shuffling their feet, kicking at their belly and rolling and trashing,” Hiney said.

In some cases, horse colic can be treatable. Horses can have a mild impaction, gas, or their gut can be twisted, Hiney said.

“If there is impaction colic occurring, mineral oil is often used to break up or dislodge the impaction,” Russell said. “Veterinarians can also insert a nasogastric tube to relieve the amount of gas pressure in the gut, giving gas and fluids an avenue to travel away from the gut.”

Communicating to your veterinarian the symptoms of your horse, can help them in deciding how to approach the treatment.

“It depends on the nature of it and what it is,” Hiney said. “It is important to have a good relationship with your vet, they typically understand when it is a mild one, and when to intervene.”

Veterinarians are able to tell how severe the colic is. Immediate treatment should include walking your horse and relieving the pain through medication.

“Banamine is an immediate treatment to help ease the pain,” Russell said.

Hiney said it is important to know the history of your horse.

This history would include what your horse is used to eating, what allergies they may have and if they have experienced colic before.

“Learn their normal behavior so when they do start showing signs of colic, you can easily tell that their behavior is abnormal,” Hiney said.

In most cases, there are no permanent effects on a horse, Russell said.

“Horses that colic in the past are more apt to get it,” Hiney said.

Hiney said in some cases colic can be prevented. There are some preventative measures, such as making sure the horse stays on a regular feeding routine.

“In the winter, a horse’s water intake reduces, and they are more likely to have an impaction so it is important to make sure they are drinking plenty of water,” Hiney said.

Russell said he believes keeping things simple for a horse will help prevent colic.

“It’s really important to feed quality grain and hay. Any feed with mold should immediately be thrown away. It’s also important to make changes in a feeding program slowly,” Russell said. “If you start with a new type of hay or grain, make the change slowly and mix with old feed. Feeding grain should never be directly on the ground, as sand colic can be severe consequence.”


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