Decision making in the management of the colicky horse

Dealing with colic emergencies in horses

source: Debra Archer
In Practice vol 26 no 7, July/August 2004
starts p 378, 7 pages long

Vets often see cases of colic as emergencies and, though many are mild, with the horse recovering rapidly, it is important to identify those where surgery may be needed. Colic results from abdominal pain, which may have many causes, including gas, and strangulating obstructions, which can be fatal. Heart and respiratory rates, rectal temperature, and checking for abdominal sounds are part of the clinical examination, with a repeat examination after one or two hours if the horse does not respond to painkillers. It is worth checking for worms and dental problems if this is a one-off episode of colic. Painkillers should tackle visceral pain, but horses need to be monitored in case pain persists or increases, so drugs should not mask symptoms of severe pain. Laxatives and fluid therapy may also give relief. Around 7% of cases may need surgery. Early referral aids success, and specialist clinics can give advice as to whether surgery is necessary. They also
have sophisticated imaging and diagnostic equipment. Recovery with no need for surgery is preferable to delay resulting in the death of the horse. Vets need to contact the facility beforehand and discuss costs. Survival rates after surgery have improved, though more information is needed on long-term survival.