Feeding Horses During and after Colic

July 28, 2008 (published) | August 22, 2016 (revised)

Colic simply means the horse has abdominal pain, and that is related to the gastrointestinal tract. All colic cases are emergencies and even though some may subside without treatment, many will not and it is critical to have your vet involved rather than just walk the horse to see if they get better. Usually, they get worse and require more aggressive treatment. One of the most important parts of colic treatment is fluids as many of these horses dehydrate, which further decreases their gut function. Horses with colic will not drink or eat in most cases and so fluids have to either be given by a tube through the horse's nose or intravenous through a catheter. Never put a water hose in your horse's mouth to give them fluids as you will likely give them pneumonia instead. If you call your vet early, water can be given through a tube into the stomach, which is much less expensive than intravenous fluids. Fluid administered both intravenously and through a tube into the stomach will increase circulation and increase intestinal function in many cases. Pain control and mineral oil may be used also.

After the colic seems to have resolved, monitoring water intake is critical. I recommend clients offer small handfuls of hay every 2 hours for 2 days after a colic and no grain for 2 days. Gradually start the grain back at one-quarter ration and increase slowly over a 7-day period. It is important to monitor appetite in horses that have had colic as I think it is one of the most sensitive signs that the horse is improving. Horses that do not have an appetite after colic treatment are probably still hurting.

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