9 x Colic: From Stomach Cramps to the Silent Killer

1. Anatomy

As for other animal species, horses are very sensitive to intestinal problems and therefore to colic. This is because the overall length of the digestive tract is a relatively long path with sometimes right-angled bends. With an adult horse, food should not be less than 40 meters!! Take off.

1.1 Esophagus

After chewing, food first enters the stomach through the esophagus. Sometimes, for various reasons such as the desire to eat too quickly, an obstruction occurs in the esophagus. This gives a slightly different picture of colic. The horse may also want to lie down and squeeze, but eventually mucus and food particles will also come out of the nose.

1.2 Small intestine

Then the horse’s stomach is relatively small (8-15 liters). The digestive process of horses is one-sided and rather long. To understand this, it is important to have a little more knowledge about independence. We start from the stomach. This is related to Small intestine† It is more than 20 m long and ends in the large intestine.

1.3 Large intestine

Moving to the large intestine, there is a relatively large blind bulge, also known as the appendix. In the case of a horse, its capacity is about 30 liters. The cecum is located on the right side of the abdomen. On the left side of the abdomen there is a space for the large intestine. The intestines are important in the digestive process. Food is broken down and nutrients are released. The rest of the food is slowly propelled by rhythmic wave movements (contractions) in the gut. Finally, after passing through the large intestine, the undigested portion of the food comes out as fertilizer through the “back” (rectum).

2. What are the most common types of colic?

The Most popular types From colic in horses: gas cramps Constipation cramps. In gas colic, gases exit the body usually via wind or gases. If gas cannot escape, for example due to a buildup of gas or a (partial) bowel obstruction, gas colic can occur. bee constipation colic Is there a blockage due to accumulated straw for example.

Then there too intermittent colic† In spasmodic colic, the intestinal muscles contract. Spasmodic colic can be triggered by changes in the weather, switching from hay to fresh grass, drinking very cold water, and eating a lot during long flights.

sand colic This is caused by a horse ingesting a lot of sand in a paddock or bare meadows while searching for food. sand piles up gradual in the gastrointestinal tract and causes pain due to irritation of the mucous membranes and weight. This form of colic can be prevented with better management.


Check your horse’s teeth regularly. Good chewing skills help your horse prevent colic – Photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto

3. What are the causes of colic

A horse’s digestive system is designed to allow the animal to move around throughout the day and night and eat small amounts of roughage. Very different from the way horses are bred which can cause problems such as colic.

Causes of colic in horses if you horse colic It can be due to various reasons, such as worm infestation, poor dental care, sand buildup, intestinal inflammation or paralysis. Colic can also be caused by moldy or spoiled food.

Dental problems can also lead to poor chewing of hay, which leads to colic due to intestinal obstruction. So be sure to have your teeth checked regularly by a good equine vet/dentist, with young ones, but certainly also with some horses. Older horses† If your horse has lost a lot of weight, has resistance to touching the abdomen or has girth, you should be alert for a digestive problem. Unhealthy intestinal flora can lead to colic due to gas production and gas buildup in the intestines, or laminitis. It often accompanies gas production and accumulation fluffy fluffy or diarrhoea.


If horses look at their stomachs and don’t get up, it could be a symptom of colic – Image: Getty Images / iStockphoto

4. What are the symptoms of colic?

The symptoms The horse exhibits vary widely. This depends on the shape of the colic, the cause of the colic, and the nature of the horse. The symptoms May include: Front leg scratching agitated behaviour, where the horse may lie down and stand again suddenly become calm and lethargic, where the horse can lie on its back, sweating and breathing quickly with whines sometimes looking at the wings. The horse undoubtedly has a “feeling bloated” because the digestive process is stagnant somewhere.

Furthermore, symptoms range from not wanting to drink and eating or eating slowly, to looking back into the abdomen, standing taut, scratching the front legs and hitting the abdomen. But you should be aware of colic even when the horse is showing something subtle like tail wagging and a Flemish.

A horse in severe colic pain also does not pay attention to the handler and therefore can pose a threat to its environment. Eventually it can be seen that some stomach contents come out through the nose or the horse develops a very swollen appearance. A horse can also enter quickly shocked And maybe die.

Colicky horses often sweat. The pulse rate is very high and normal bowel sounds are absent or abnormal. In severe cases, the mucous membranes are very red or blue-red.

5. What happens during an attack of colic?

Colic is a collective name for various painful spasms in a horse’s digestive system.

If a horse has had an intestinal stroke, this piece of intestine is rarely supplied with blood. This makes the wall of this piece of intestine of poor quality and therefore permeable to endotoxins. These toxins make the heart beat faster and your horse can develop laminitis or laminitis shocked† It should be clear that this form of colic is the most serious form of colic.

6. What do you do if your horse has colic?

If you think your horse is suffering from colic, it is always a good idea to consult your vet in the first place. He can come and diagnose the situation right away. While waiting for the vet, it is a good idea to keep the horse immobile (walking), not to give concentrates and to monitor whether the horse has droppings or not. You can also take your horse’s temperature.

6.1 bouts of mild colic

With a mild bout of colic, you can take it easy for a while horse steps It brings relief in many cases of colic, a buildup of gas or manure occurs, which can be relieved by exercise. In addition to behavior, respiration, pulse rate, mucous membrane color and body temperature are important indicators for determining the severity of colic.

bee Rectal examination The obstruction is often easy for a vet to identify, usually in the left part of the large intestine. Most cases of constipation are caused by eating too much hay while reducing exercise.

6.2 More severe colic attacks

In more serious cases, additional investigations are carried out. This often means that your vet will feel it is rectal. In this way an impression of the position and fullness of the intestine can be obtained.

at full stomach The vet examines the horse with a tube passed through the nose and esophagus into the stomach.

If constipation is suspected, the probe also inserted is used to administer laxatives such as paraffin. s

Sometimes the vet will advise sending the horse to a clinic for further examination. The change in the position of the intestine with closure can only be treated with an operation in a specialized clinic. Colic caused by spinning without closing can in some cases resolve itself with laxatives and plenty of exercise.


Drinking a lot of very cold water can also lead to colic. © DigiShots

7. How can you prevent colic?

You can’t always control the development of colic, but there are a number of things you can take into consideration to prevent colic in your horse as much as possible. Some tips for you straight.


As horses move from the stable to the pasture, make sure the transition is gradual. Photo: Sabine Tiemann

7.1 Gradual change

Never change food abruptly, but do. gradual† This applies not only to concentrates, but also to hay or grazing. Feed the horse the amount of food appropriate for the effort and performance it has to give that day and make sure it has enough roughage and exercise, so that the intestines remain active and prevent colic.


Eating a lot of hay and a little exercise can lead to colic. © DigiShots

7.2 Poor quality feed

Most colic episodes are caused by poor quality food, moldy or dusty food, and too little branToo much concentrate at once or poor distribution of feed throughout the day, eating sand, or drinking too much cold water at once.


Adequate good quality bran is very important for every horse – Photo: Sabine Tiemann, Peter Tiemann

7.3 Management

Good management can prevent colic. Inadequate bowel movement can lead to gas colic. This can be the case, for example, after a hard workout. Therefore concentrated feeding before driving is not recommended! In the case of colic, prevention is better than cure.

However, make sure your horse has enough bran Good quality food, otherwise it can lead to stomach problems from high stomach acid. This may not be colic, but stomach ulcers are no fun for a horse either.

A horse can also get gassy by eating spoiled or moldy food, when changing feed or if it is suddenly given large amounts of feed (or eating moldy feed!). So make sure feeding drums and other feeds are closed. And to feed good quality (rough) fodder.


Feeding concentrations before driving are not recommended. © DigiShots

8. Post-colic feeding tips

In many cases, intestinal flora is actually improved by feeding roughage hay. However, this will not be enough in all cases, and a serving of hay alone may be very poor in nutrients. In some cases, diet food leads to improvement.


Adequate exercise is important to prevent colic. If your horse has symptoms of colic, it is recommended that you take the horse for a walk. Photo: Sabine Tiemann

9. Lots of exercise

Provide enough roughage and exercise, so that the intestines remain active. Make sure the straw is not harvested or has mold spots. Not wise anyway or food is moldy straw to put the stable.

Avoid eating large amounts of starchy foods, such as cornmeal and wheat. Too much and too soon is never good! So make sure your horse eats calmly and does not drink a lot of cold water immediately after a hard workout.

Resources and more on this topic:

https://www.pavo.nl/advies/koliek-alles-over-koliek-bij-paarden/

https://www.nmlhealth.com/kolic

https://www.paardendrogist.nl/blog/koliek/

https://www.dierapotheker.nl/dierentips/koliek-paard

https://www.veehouderenveearts.nl/dierplanten/koliek/

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