Colic Prevention and Recognition

Colic is frightening to see, painful and sometimes deadly.

From America's Horse

Although not every case of colic is avoidable, good management techniques can aid in prevention. Our alliance partners at the American Association of Equine Practitioners offer the following guidelines for preventing colic:

Colic Avoidance

    • Establish a daily routine for feed and exercise schedules and stick to it.
    • Feed a high-quality diet comprised mostly of roughage.
    • Avoid feeding excessive grain and energy-dense supplements. Twice as much energy should be supplied from a roughage source as from concentrates.
    • Divide daily concentrate rations into several smaller feedings, rather than one large meal, to avoid overloading the horse's digestive tract. Hay is best fed free choice.

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    • Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your veterinarian. Also ensure regular vaccinations and dental work.
    • Provide exercise and/or turnout on a daily basis. Change the intensity and duration of an exercise regimen gradually.
    • Provide clean, fresh water at all times. The only is exception is when the horse is excessively hot. Then he should be given small sips of lukewarm water until he has recovered.
    • Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils.
    • Check the horse's hay and environment (pasture, bedding, etc) for potentially toxic substances such as blister beetles, noxious weeds and other indigestible foreign matter.
    • Reduce stress. Horses that experience changes in environment or workloads are at high risk of intestinal dysfunction. Pay special attention to horses when transporting them or when changing their surroundings, such as at shows.

Recognizing Colic

Colic presents itself differently in every horse, and the severity of the symptoms varies. However, the most common signs are:

    • Turning the head toward the flank
    • Pawing
    • Kicking or biting at the abdomen
    • Stretching out as if trying to urinate without doing so
    • Repeatedly lying down and getting up, or attempting to do so
    • Rolling, especially violently
    • Sitting in a dog-like position or lying on the back
    • Lack of appetite
    • Putting head down to water without drinking
    • Lack of bowel movements
    • Absence of or reduced digestive sounds
    • Sweating

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    • Rapid respiration or flared nostrils
    • Elevated pulse rate (greater than 52 beats per minute)
    • Depression
    • Lip curling (Flehmen response)
    • Cool extremities

If you think your horse is colicking, it's best to call the vet right away.

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Stomach Ulcers in Horses

By Dr. April Knudson of Merial

No matter what breed or discipline -- all horses can be at risk for stomach ulcers. Gastroscopy of horses across the country has shown that stomach ulcers are found in nearly all breeds and disciplines of horses.

A wide variety of breeds are susceptible to stomach ulcers because horses in general are very sensitive to stress. Additionally, a horse's stomach can produce up to 16 gallons of acidic fluid every day. Stomach acid, coupled with environmental stresses, like training or limited turnout, can cause acid to build up in a horse's stomach, leading to stomach ulcers.

In fact, stomach ulcers have been found in up to 93 percent of racehorses, 63 percent of nonracing competitive horses and 75 percent of nonpregnant broodmares.

Many horse owners think horses ridden a few times a year are not at risk for stomach ulcers because they don't regularly encounter risk factors like training or competition. However, research has shown that stomach ulcers can develop in horses quickly -- sometimes in as little as five days.

On the other hand, horses likely don't become accustomed to the lifestyle of a competitor either. Events that many horse owners consider routine -- including trailering, training and stall confinement -- can contribute to the development of stomach ulcers.

Eliminating the stress from your horse's everyday activities can be difficult. To help prevent stomach ulcers, consider using Ulcergard (omeprazole) the next time your horse may be exposed to a stressful situation. Ulcergard is the only FDA-approved product for the prevention of stomach ulcers. Just one daily dose has been proven effective in preventing stomach ulcers over both short and long periods of time. Ulcergard works by inhibiting the acid production at the acid pump, effectively preventing stomach ulcers before they become a problem.

All horses produce acid around the clock, which may put them at risk for stomach ulcers. To keep your horse feeling and working at its best, ask your veterinarian about Ulcergard.