The word colic simply refers to abdominal pain.  The causes of that pain vary, and can be mild or severe.  The most mild forms of
colic may require nothing more than a few minutes of walking, whereas a severe colic will require surgical correction.  It is critical that
every horse owner recognize some of the common signs of colic:

Decreased or absent appetite
Laying down
Looking or biting at flanks
Not passing any manure, or passing soft or liquid stool


If the signs of pain are mild, try walking your horse for about 15-20 minutes.  This can aid the passage of small pockets of gas and mild cases may resolve completely

If there is no improvement after 20 minutes, or if the horse is in severe pain (violent rolling or thrashing), contact your veterinarian

Prepare the most thorough history you can before your vet arrives.  Consider recent diet changes, new batches of feed or hay,
recent competition or transport, when he was last dewormed and which product you used, etc.  Note any previous episodes of colic
the horse may have had and what, if any, diagnosis was made for the cause.


Do not administer any medications or at-home remedies unless directed by your veterinarian.  There are

many "old-timer's recipes" in the horse world, and many are very harmful.  Pain medication can make your horse appear more mild
than he truly is, creating a false sense of security and possibly delaying treatment.  Administer medications only if prescribed and
directed by your veterinarian.

Do not pass any kind of tube into the horses stomach, or try to give mineral oil by mouth.  Although this seems innocent, many
owners have inadvertently given mineral oil into the horse's lungs.  It takes experience and judgement to correctly pass a nasogastric

Even when mineral oil is given by mouth with a syringe, it can be dangerous.  Mineral oil is heavy, and may not elicit the cough reflex,
and may also end up in the horse's re
spiratory tract.  Even if this was a safe method of giving mineral oil, it is impossible to give
enough in this manner.


Like many things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Seek regular dental care from your veterinarian (every 6-12 months).  Abnormalities like the hooks below can reduce or prevent
normal chewing movements.

Make changes to a horse's feed gradually.

Feed a diet that consists mostly of roughage (mainly hay) with minimal to no grain (corn, oats, or COB).
Feeding roughage in several small meals is helpful.  Avoid feeding large grain meals.

Regular parasite control is a must.  Programs vary, and can include a daily dewormer with added strategic paste deworming, or an
every 3-month paste deworming year round.  
For some horses with low fecal egg counts, deworming twice annually may be

There are many products on the market.  Talk to your veterinarian to design a tailored program for your horse.
Provide clean water.  Make sure your tank heater is working in the winter.  Horses don't like to drink icy water on a cold day any more
than you or I.  

Avoid feeding your horse on sandy ground.  Some horses have a tendency to pick up grains of sand with their feed, and these build
up over time, and can eventually lead to sand colic.  This is common in our area with decomposed granite.  Feed in a stall with a mat
or cement floor, or use large, low feeders on the ground.  Even with these precautions, it is a good idea to use a sand treatment
product for horses living on this type of footing.  Commercial products are available at local feed stores, or you can consult
with your
veterinarian about alternatives.

Stressful situations (competition, transport, etc) can predispose a horse to developing gastric ulcers.  There are medications
available that may help prevent and treat ulcers.  In addition, it may be helpful to administer a probiotic.  Akin to yogurt, these
products contain live cultures of bacteria that are normally present in the healthy horse's GI tract.  Administering these products may
help prevent disease-causing bacteria from becoming a problem.


The good news is about 90% of colics respond to basic medical treatment that can be done in the field with recovery in about 12-24
hours and no need for hospitalization or surgery.  Though there certainly are some forms of colic which do require surgery or
hospitalization, they are the minority.  For those horses that do require further intervention, we are fortunate in our area to have
board-certified equine surgeons close by at Littleton Equine and Colorado State University.

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