Colic is an uncomfortable and painful condition. It is at best unpleasant and at worst fatal. It is not a specific disease but a general term describing pain in the abdomen or other parts of the digestive system. It can be caused by an accumulation of gas in the gut, or by eating too much at one feed. It may result from excessive feeding before work or from drinking very cold water.
Horses that eat the bedding are particularly prone to this condition. Colic may also be caused by a twisting of the gut or by severe worm infestation. The horse will show that he has pain in the abdomen in several ways. He may lie down and roll excessively, turn his head to bite the flank, kick at his belly with a hind leg, and break out in a patchy sweat.
In all cases of colic where the pulse rate rises above 50, or the situation is not relieved in half an hour or so, the veterinary surgeon should be called. To make an inaccurate diagnosis and administer the wrong treatment can be extremely dangerous. The first treatment should be to alleviate the pain and outrun the patient in a well-padded, warm box.
The horse should be kept warm with light rugs, but should these become wet with sweat they should be changed. Every effort should be made to prevent the horse from rolling violently as this may cause further damage. The traditional practice of walking the horse around constantly may tire him and lower his resistance, so it should therefore be used with caution.
A colic drink can be made up by the veterinary surgeon to be kept in the stable for use where mild cases of colic occur frequently. It should be used with care and only as first-aid treatment. Many cases of colic are simply mild attacks of stomach ache, and after treatment will go away. It is important to watch that such cases do not reoccur too frequently, which would indicate that something is wrong with the digestive system or the stable management.
The horse has a small stomach and is unable to vomit. This makes Hint particularly susceptible to any sort of pressure that builds up in the digestive system, especially the stomach. The treatment will depend on the diagnosis. Should the pain be caused by excessive gas pressure the veterinary surgeon may relieve this pressure with a stomach tube.
The rectal examination will often disclose that the horse is constipated and manual removal of the feces often relieves the condition. Enemas are used at times, and there are very effective drugs that can be used to relax the muscles and allow the normal functions of the digestive system to take place. In the worst cases, where colic is caused by twisting or rupturing of the gut, surgery may be necessary. Colic is a serious condition that can be found in the best-run stables. It is sometimes, however, the result of carelessness, ignorance, or both.
The horse owner is most likely to have to deal with the infection in the following circumstances:
- 1. Infected wounds.
- 2. Skin diseases.
- 3. Respiratory conditions.
Serious infection of wounds can best be avoided by ensuring that the horse is regularly immunized against tetanus. This inoculation is given annually, and a booster is sometimes given where wounds are potentially susceptible to tetanus infection, for example, injuries to the sole, or deep punctures elsewhere. Other wounds should be kept clean and treated with an antibiotic powder to reduce the risk of bacterial infection.
See more: Horse Clipping