That dreaded word ‘colic’! It is a word that no horse owner wants to encounter! Whether it is a mild or more severe case of abdominal pain in your horse, it is important to have an action plan in place if it does happen to occur.
Below are 10 steps to ensure that you are prepared for a case of colic in your own equine.
1.Check Your Horses Vital Signs – by checking your horse’s heart rate, temperature and recording their other clinical signs (ie – pawing/rolling/stretching, this allows you pick up whether the horse may be distressed, gives you the ability to monitor these signs over a period of time, and also allows you to pass this information onto your veterinarian
2.Look for Poo! - Quite often simply finding the animals faeces (or lack of) may give your veterinarian a vital clue as to why your horse is having abdominal pains.
3.Investigate – Look for anything out of the ordinary: Has your horse not eaten dinner? Is the hay very new or old? Is there a lot of fresh pasture around, or is it very dry and weed burdened? Are there poisonous weeds about? Have you changed the horses feed supplier, routine, or hay supplier? These are all things that can trigger off a bout of colic and useful information for your vet.
4.Call Your Veterinarian! - Regardless of the severity or vagueness of the signs, never take a wait and see approach with colic symptoms. Waiting too long could allow minor problems to become severe, and severe problems to become untreatable. A simple phone call to your vet allows you to relay the clinical signs and symptoms and have the veterinarian evaluate whether they need to attend the horse immediately or whether the owner can continue to monitor the horse and phone the veterinarian if symptoms worsen.
5.Closely Monitor Your Horse – ensure that you continue to check your horse every 15-20 minutes whilst symptoms are present. Colic symptoms can worsen rapidly, so it is vital that you are checking your horse frequently to pick up any signs of their condition changing.
6.Walk Your Horse – Walking can assist moving gas through the gut and can prevent injury from rolling. Most mild colics will even clear up from just a simple brisk walk. Try to walk the horse to keep them comfortable, but never to the point of exhaustion. Never aggressively exercise the horse. It is important that a horse maintains hydrated and energy levels up. If the colic symptoms are quite prominent and the veterinarian is on the way, try to keep the horse moving until the vet arrives.
7.Do Not Feed! Feed may have been the reason for the tummy ache to begin with! Remove any access to hay or grain and if the pasture is quite green and lush, try to put the horse in yard that has limited access until the horse has been seen by your veterinarian or the symptoms subside.
8.Never medicate without your veterinarian’s approval! Pain medications can mask clinical signs, making it more difficult for your veterinarian to get a timely, accurate diagnosis. Never treat your horse without consulting your veterinarian first.
9.Be Prepared! If your veterinarian is on their way, ensure that you have a safe, well lit area for examination, access to clean water (in case stomach tubing the horse is required), and also access to power can helpful in some cases where ultrasound of the abdomen is required.
10.Think about transport – Have a plan in place, so that If the horse does need to go into the clinic for further monitoring or surgery, you are able to get them there safely and efficiently.
If ever in doubt, phone your veterinarian. Early prognosis and intervention is always critical for a successful outcome.