Baillie Haylage have partnered up with the Equine Nutrition experts at Bishop Burton College to provide horse owners with advice on Colic in horses. If not cared for properly Colic can be extremely dangerous and sometimes fatal. Here is advice on how to spot symptoms, but more importantly how to prevent getting to that stage.
Colic is a broad term used to describe gastrointestinal discomfort. Specific types of colic include but are not limited to impaction, tympanic, intussusception, and spasmodic. The causes and mechanism of these will differ, but the clinical signs will be similar and include:
- Behavioural symptoms such as restlessness, looking towards or kicking at the abdomen
- Physiological signs such as increased temperature, pulse, and respiration rate.
Impaction colic is one of the most common types. It is caused when substances build up in an area of the intestine and creating a blockage.
The blockage stops the peristalsis needed to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract and causes pain and discomfort in the horse. This blockage could be anything from sand/soil, being fed things outside of a horse's usual diet, to tapeworms.
Maintaining a clean and healthy environment for the horse by adopting an effective worming programme and limiting access to sandbanks will help eliminate some of these risk factors.
Although other husbandry practices and exercise can affect colic, correct nutrition management can reduce the likelihood of colic developing.
To limit the risk of foodstuff causing impaction, clean, fresh water must always be available to the horse. Feeding practices must mirror the natural grazing pattern so that there is no temptation for the horse to suddenly bolt down food after a period of fasting.
Finally, make sure any adjustments to the diet are gradual so that the digestive system can adapt to the new feedstuff. If introducing a new hard feed, make sure you begin with a handful at a time and build up to a scoop or two. If switching forage provision, ensure the old source is still fed in part to ease the transition.
You may also find our blog on The Equine Digestive System helps give a further understanding to the topic.