Colic is classified as a veterinary emergency alongside a wound or injury to a joint and, an episode of uncontrollable bleeding, so decisions about intervention in colic cases need to be well considered and thoughtful but they do need to be made quickly. Colic remains the leading medical cause of death in the equine population.
What is colic?
Simply, colic is abdominal pain irrespective of cause. Horses have small stomachs and a very long digestive tract and colic symptoms are usually associated with the latter.
Colic is characterised by symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to uncontrollable pain which leads to huge levels of anxiety and stress in the horse; other incidental injuries are common in cases of severe colic as the horse is unable to tolerate or eliminate the pain.
How to handle a colic situation
Call your vet and alert them even if the symptoms appear mild initially; if they are aware there is a potential colic case which may worsen, then they can ensure that they remain available for your call or start to travel if you are at a distance and can give advice verbally.
- Check your transport situation as you may need to travel the horse quickly to a referral centre
- Monitor the horse very regularly, at least every twenty minutes
Data from the University of Liverpool - Leahurst Veterinary Hospital reveals that the optimum outcomes from colic surgery come from animals which are not too sick upon arrival, hence the need to make a well considered but quick decision. If the horse recovers and surgery is not required then all you will be left with is a relatively small bill for hospital livery and a horse for whom the episode has passed. If his condition worsens, then he is in the best possible place for surgical intervention
Signs of colic