Q & A – Colic Scare

Horse Colic

Photo by Deanna Buschert

Dr. Shawn Mattson, DVM, DVSc, BSc, is an ACVS board certified surgeon who practices at Moore and Company Veterinary Services www.mooreandco.com, a full service Equine hospital in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Dr. Mattson was previously at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, Ontario and has been with Moore and Company Veterinary Services for three years. Here he answers our reader’s question regarding colic.

Question: My mare is five-years-old and was previously a race-trotter. Now she’s my trail horse. About five days ago, she was showing signs of colic and I was really scared. She got herself up and then I got her walking. I then syringed water in her mouth. When she seemed to be feeling better I put her away. But six days later when I pressed on her tummy by her hind legs, she turned to bite me, because it seems to hurt, on both sides. What does it mean and what should I do?

Answer: It certainly sounds like your horse suffered a mild colic episode. The horse was likely experiencing a gas or spasmodic colic and recovered on her own without the need for veterinary intervention. The majority of colics that we see are indeed medical in nature. It is important to remember, however, that you should always call your veterinarian if your horse does not improve, becomes more painful, depressed or is just not acting normally. What starts as a seemingly mild colic can quickly evolve into a situation much more serious and often the outcome with medical and/or surgical treatment is far better the sooner the horse is evaluated by a veterinarian.

Colic is a general term that refers to abdominal pain. There are many different types of colic and they do not always relate to the gastrointestinal system. A horse exhibiting colic signs can also have pain arising from many different body systems, including the urinary, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Therefore, it is difficult to state the cause of your mare’s behavior without examining the horse. It would be unusual for the symptoms that your horse exhibited six days later to be associated with the initial colic, since the time frame is quite long. The signs you are describing can be caused by a variety of problems (musculoskeletal, reproductive, behavioral etc). My best recommendation is that your horse should be thoroughly evaluated by your veterinarian if she continues to exhibit these symptoms.

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