Colic in Horses – digitalfactory

Colic in Horses

close view of white horse right eye

One word causes the horse owner’s heart colic. It is the most frequent reason for death for horses, and every horse could be at risk.  Defined as any condition which causes pain in the abdomen. the reason for colic can range from minor and self-limiting, to severe or dangerous. 

What exactly is Colic

Although any abdominal discomfort may be an indication of colic, the majority of colic is caused by problems with the digestive system. The horse’s digestive system is now able to become extremely dependent on changes to the environment and diet.

A few unique anatomical characteristics that can lead to complications include variations in the size of the colon, as well as a weak attachment of the colon to the wall of the body. These characteristics can lead horses to colic impaction (blockage by ingested matter) as well as to torsions (twisting of the colon). 

The signs

Signs and symptoms

  • Doing not eat
  • It’s not passing as well as manure 
  • Viewing its sides (flank-looking)
  • Relaxing
  • Curls or tightening of the upper lip
  • Pawing infrequently
  • More than usual lay-down
  • A trembling
  • Rolling
  • Then getting up, lying down, and getting up every single time
  • Very intense sweating
  • Incessant, frantic pawing
  • Then becoming Cast (stuck within a corner in which it is impossible to get up on its own without help) inside the horse stall

The most common signs of colic are eating too much and a decline in manure output, flank-watching, or stretching out repeatedly.  The most commonly encountered type is spasmodic colic. In this type, the stomach becomes gas-distended and it is painfully contracted.

Colic symptoms that are moderate include pawing, lying down in a quiet manner, or showing mild muscle movements.  Horses who exhibit moderate signs of colic for longer than one or two hours that are not resolved by walking the horse or any other signs that are moderate should be evaluated by a vet. In any event, the veterinarian should be informed as quickly as you can if your horse is showing symptoms of colic.

The most common causes of moderate symptoms of colic include obstructions that occur in the intestines. These are referred to as impacts. Displacements are a different kind of colic, which usually start with symptoms of mild colic. The condition of spasmodic colic may cause displacements. The large colon of the horse is a loose connection to the body’s wall, so it is able to move to different areas when gas is dilated which can cause spasms, pain, and dysmotility.

The signs of severe colic are characterized by circling and rolling at times to the point that horses hurt themselves or get stuck against walls in stalls (becoming in a cast).  These horses should be evaluated by a veterinarian right away or taken to an equine clinic when a veterinarian is not easily accessible.

Colic symptoms that create severe pain include severe displacements or strangulating diseases. This is the most severe form of colic. It happens caused when the intestine is twisting on its own (torsion or volvulus) and stops blood flow. Prompt detection and intervention are essential to ensure the successful treatment of the twisted intestinal tract.

The Reasons

Causes of gastrointestinal colic may be divided into strangulations, obstructions, and functional issues that result in reduced mobility. 3

  • Obstructions
  • Impacts
  • The colon is displaced by the large colon.
  • Strangulations
  • Large colon volvulus
  • Pedunculated Lipoma (a benign fat-based tumor) inflicting strangulation on a portion of the small intestine
  • Incarcerations of a portion of the bowel (epiploic foramen entrapment, scrotal hernias)
  • Functional issues
  • Spasmodic colic
  • Abnormality in the motility of the small intestinal tract (enteritis or duodenitis jejunitis proximal)
  • Infectious(SalmonellaClostridium)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Ulcers


A horse’s owner should notify their veterinarian as soon as they suspect that their horse has colic. While waiting for a response, your veterinarian may suggest that you administer to your horse a medicine known as Banamine (flunixin meglumine). Discuss with your vet during your annual examination for your horse whether you need to keep an amount of the drug in your barn in case of emergency. It is similar to the anti-inflammatory non-steroidal drug ibuprofen and is therefore important to avoid giving your horse too much or administering it too often.

Your vet may suggest that you take your horse for a walk until they arrive if the horse’s signs of colic aren’t too severe that they could put a risk on your security.

Your veterinarian will conduct physical examinations by taking a look at your horse’s gums, looking at the rate of their breathing, heartbeat, and temperature, and also listening for sounds of the intestines. Your horse might be put under sedation to make the visit more relaxed and secure.

An essential aspect of the diagnosis and treatment process in the colic examination is “passing the Nasogastric tube.” Since a horse’s anatomy doesn’t permit the animal to vomit, an obstruction within the digestive tract could result in the stomach filling up which can cause pain and distention. The tube that is specially designed for this purpose passes from the horse’s nostril to the stomach. It can be used to medically treat the horse by administering an enormous bolus of mineral oil that helps remove the obstruction.

The majority of horses with colicky behavior will be inspected rectally by your vet. This has been a crucial diagnostic procedure for vets for a long time. With a skilled horse handler, and with judicious use of sedation rectal exam is generally a secure procedure.

Other diagnostic tests that might be suggested by your vet may include bloodwork and checking to look for parasites and ultrasound. Certain causes of colic could be persistent or chronic. A frequent kind of this is stomach ulcers in horses which can be identified by introducing cameras (gastroscope) inside the stomach.


A lot of cases of colic are treated at the farm. After the physical examination, your vet will likely request that you remove the horse’s grain and hay and contact them if you notice any signs of deterioration. They’ll probably also ask you to check your horse again on the following day to make sure that everything is back to normal.

If your horse doesn’t react to the treatment at your farm, you might require transport to an animal hospital. It is important that you have a planned place to take your horse there. Although some horses who visit a veterinary hospital require surgery, the majority require only intravenous fluids and support. Hospitals are also able to run advanced diagnostic tests to better understand the root of the colic.

If colic is extremely extreme, and especially when they have twisted intestines or a twisted intestinal tract the horse may require surgery to live. 3 This is a frightening moment for any horse owner. It is essential to take into consideration your financial options and limitations prior to making this emotional choice. A horse surgeon can provide you with details about the cost and possible complications.

How to stop Colic

Certain types of colic cannot be avoided, however, the danger of all common forms can be controlled. It is important to feed horses good quality hay and introducing the type of feed gradually is the key to successful treatment. Providing plenty of drinking fluids as well as elevating the feed when your horse lives in a sandy environment is also essential to avoid colic in the sand. 3 Colic is not uncommon, but making a plan of action for what you can do if your horse is suffering from colic could help save his life.