horse food

Are horse owners right to fear colic more than any other disease?

Many horse owners are naturally concerned about their horse’s health, especially when it comes to diseases such as colic. Ensuring you provide your horse with the correct horse feed is the first step you must take, but what else can you do to give your horse the best possible chance of a healthy and happy life? We explore the issues many horses and horse owners face relating to colic, and what can pre-emptively be done to avoid any major issues.

How big a problem is colic?

In just two years, one out of hours practice saw 1792 cases, 35% of which were colic. With such a huge number of colic cases, it is clear to see why many horse owners see it as one of the most prevalent diseases.

When it came to hospital admissions, it was reported that one UK based equine hospital saw cases ranging from 764 to 1045 per annum between 2004 and 2017, with the proportion admitted for colic ranging from 15% to 20%. When it comes to treating colic, time is of the essence. As an acute problem, every wasted minute of delay can reduce the chance of survival.

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A study showed that less than 50% of horse owners would call the vet for a horse that was exhibiting symptoms of colic, but instead would simply monitor their horse, reducing the chance of a successful recovery. It is essential to be aware of the symptoms of colic, which can differ, dependent on whether the colic is at a mild, moderate, or severe level.

What are the symptoms of colic in horses?

Horses will typically display some or all of the following symptoms if they are afflicted with colic, so it is imperative that you bear these in mind and be aware of any of these symptoms emerging:

In mild cases:

  • Lip curling.
  • Flank watching. 
  • Restlessness. 
  • Pawing the ground.

In moderate cases:

  • Posturing to urinate frequently.
  • Lying down and getting back up.
  • Lying on their side for long periods.

In severe cases:-

  • Violent rolling. 
  • Sweating.
  • Rapid breathing. 
  • Injuries to body and face from rolling and thrashing around.

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Never Delay Seeking Advice

It is thought that some horse owners may feel guilty about going to the vet unnecessarily. Even so, the cost paid either by calling a vet out or potentially losing your horse is far higher, so never take the risk and always seek immediate help.  Although a colic may be mild and pass on its own, some are a symptom of a far more serious problem that requires veterinary care. Colic is often linked to sudden changes in your horse’s diet and the type of horse food you are feeding, so it is advisable to allow time after feeding cereal based feeds before exercising. The key here is to act fast and don’t delay getting a vet. Never take this risk as it could result in a life-or-death decision.

What should you do if you suspect colic?

If you suspect your horse is inflicted with colic, whether the symptoms are moderate or severe, they will need urgent veterinary attention. If the symptoms are mild, it is recommended that you attempt to walk them around slowly, for around 10 minutes. If the symptoms persist for 30 minutes or more, immediately contact your vet for urgent assistance.