What is Colic?

Colic is a term used to describe all types of abdominal pain in horses. It can affect horses of all ages and types, and can vary from a mild bout of discomfort that resolves itself to something more serious that requires medical management.

Most colic cases are successfully cured medically, but between 5-10% will require emergency colic surgery. It is difficult to know which colic case fits into which category, as in the early stages the clinical signs are the same. Therefore it is vital that a vet is called promptly so they can give expert advice and start appropriate treatment as quickly as possible. Any colic that requires surgical intervention has a much better chance of success if surgery happens as soon as possible.

Signs of Colic

  • Continually rolling
  • Lying down for long periods of time
  • Getting up and down
  • Pawing at the ground
  • Repeatedly looking at their flank
  • Kicking at their abdomen
  • Backing into a corner
  • Standing stretched out as if to urinate
  • Failing to pass droppings for longer than 24 hours 

Types of Colic 

  • Spasmodic Colic: Pain is caused due to a build-up of gas in the gut due to excess fermentation in the intestines. It is commonly caused by a change of diet, a lack of roughage or parasites.
  • Impaction Colic: This is when a blockage occurs in the intestine. It typically responds well to medical treatment in the form of pain relief, fluids and laxatives, but some cases will require surgery. If left untreated, severe impaction colic can be fatal.
  • Sand Colic: Most typically seen in horses kept on sandy pastures. The horse ingests sand (and dirt) which accumulates in the gut. It can irritate the lining of the bowel, causing diarrhoea. The weight and abrasion of the sand or dirt causes the bowel wall to become inflamed.
  • Twisted Gut: There are various parts of the horse’s gastrointestinal tract that may twist upon itself, leading to an interruption in blood supply to that section. A twisted gut is extremely painful for the horse and requires emergency surgery.

How do I Prevent Colic?

  • Always provide your horse with fresh clean water. 
  • Feed your horse with a limited amount of grain in their diet.
  • Always make sure any changes to a horse diet or exercise routine are introduced gradually.
  • Allow your horse access to pasture - avoid sandy areas. 
  • Make sure your horse's teeth are seen to regularly. 
  • Keep your horse up to date with vaccinations and worming. 

If you suspect your horse is suffering from colic, seek immediate advice from a veterinary professional.  


What is Colic?

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