Colic Cases in Horses Need Examinations

December 7, 2004 (published) | December 9, 2014 (revised)

By definition, colic means abdominal pain but in horses, the pain is usually from the GI tract. There are many different causes of colic, and the most common as well as the mildest type is gas or spasmodic colic.

Horses with colic generally show mild or moderate pain but they can have severe pain. Because of this, all horses with colic need to be examined by a veterinarian because without an exam, it is difficult to determine if the problem is merely mild gas colic or more serious. It is important to know the heart rate, capillary refill time, mucous membrane color and intestinal sounds before treatment, which is why a veterinary exam is important. Treatment of gas colic with pain medication is usually successful, but many of these cases require intravenous or oral fluids. Also, all colic cases should have a naso-gastric tube passed to determine if there is fluid in the stomach and if a rectal exam should be performed. Treatment with pain medication without determining the cause is not a good idea because some colic cases require surgery and without a veterinary exam, you can lose valuable time waiting on the response of pain medication.

For these reasons, it is not a good idea to give a horse with colic Banamine or any other pain medication without a veterinary exam. It is possible a more serious condition is involved, such as entrapment of the small intestine, displacement or twisting of the large colon, or maybe just inflammation of the intestine. All cases of colic do not require the same treatment. For many cases that do not respond, early surgical referral is critical for survival and if you wait and try to treat the horse yourself, it may be too late when you decide to call your veterinarian.

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