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What is Colic?

What Is Colic?
The word “colic” simply refers to abdominal pain. It covers a multitude of abdominal and intestinal problems, ranging from simple excess gas in the intestines to severe torsion or twisting of the intestines. It can also include stomach ulcers, uterine pain in pregnant or post-foaling mares and pain associated with disease in organs of the abdomen.

It is critical for horse owners to recognize the early signs of colic, because the sooner the horse is seen and treated, the greater his chances of recovery. All colics begin with mild pain and s

ubtle symptoms. If the horse is lucky, it will be a mild colic and resolve on its own or with moderate treatment from a veterinarian.

However, the first clinical signs might be an early stage of a life-threatening colic that will eventually require extensive treatment or surgery. Unfortunately, no one can tell at the beginning.


Signs of colic in the horse vary, but include not eating, yawning, restlessness, groaning, repeatedly curling the upper lip, looking at the flank, continuous or intermittent pawing, circling, backing into a corner or post, standing in a stretched position, lying down repeatedly, rolling and sweating excessively.

Remember that these signs are not specific for any particular type of colic and no colicky horse is likely to show all of them. Know how your horse acts normally to recognize anything unusual.

What Do You Do?
Remember that all colics are emergencies and a veterinarian should be contacted as soon as possible. Once you’ve determined that your horse is colicking, call a veterinarian imme

diately. Provide the veterinarian with as much information over the phone as possible. This should include the clinical signs (pawing, sweating, rolling, etc.), the horse’s rectal temperature (normal between 98 to 101.2 degrees Fahrenheit), the horse’s heart rate (normal is 30 to 40 beats per minute), and the horse’s gum color (normally pink, but might be blue if the horse is in shock or dark red if the horse is toxic).

See the full article By Dr. Thomas R. Lenz in The American Quarter Horse Journal

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