Karla S. Rugh, DVM, Ph.D.
What it is: Abdominal pain due to intestinal gas, impaction, torsion (twisting) or other causes.
Symptoms: Variable, depending on the type of colic, the amount of pain (and the horse’s pain tolerance) and duration. Can include restlessness, sweating, looking at the belly, rolling, pale or purplish gums, slightly to markedly slowed capillary refill time, elevated heart rate and respiratory rate.
What to do: Call your vet immediately. If your horse tries to roll, walk him around (rolling can make the problem worse). Don’t offer any food or water, and don’t give any medication unless your vet tells you to.
Outlook: The outlook after colic is always guarded, but the milder the episode, the greater the likelihood of complete recovery. Colic that requires surgery is always more serious; recovery, including hospitalization followed by at-home convalescence, can take months. Some horses experience repeated episodes of colic, with or without surgery.
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This article originally appeared in the 2012 issue of Horses USA. Click here to purchase the most recent issue.