Noble Life

The Do’s and Don’t of Colic


Drastic changes in weather, like the transition from spring to summer or summer to fall are classic times of year where there is an increase in the number of colics that veterinarians see. Colic is a general term for abdominal pain.  Signs of colic may include decreased appetite, stretching out to urinate, biting at abdomen, muscle tremors, rolling, or repeatedly getting up and down. There are a few Do’s and Don’ts that your veterinarian would like you to know.

  1. DO NOT try to buy a cure at the feed store for colic. There is NO colic cure at your local feed store. We get calls all the time about horses that are colicky and the owner is wondering what they can pick up from the feed store. There is nothing at your feed store to treat colic. Horses are hindgut fermenters meaning they require a large amount of water to pass through their large intestines each day. Therefore, it is important that horses have plenty of clean, fresh and abundant water to drink. You can buy salt blocks or electrolytes at the feed store to give your horse to encourage them to drink more water to help prevent colic.
  2. DO call your veterinarian as soon as you notice that your horse is not acting themselves. The biggest mistake horse owners make is waiting to call their veterinarians.  The longer the horse goes without medical attention the chances of treating the colic decrease while the cost increases.
  3. DO NOT use injectable flunixin meglumine intramuscularly. Flunixin meglumine (Banamine) is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory commonly used to treat colic. It should only be used under your veterinarian’s direction. You should not be used intramuscularly (IM) because there is a risk of a fatal/locally invasive Clostridial infection (most likely Clostridium perfringens or Clostridium septicum).
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  5. DO walk your horse or try to keep it standing until your veterinarian arrives to prevent injury from rolling. However, do not walk your horse for hours hoping to fix your colic without medical treatment. Walking your horse over several hours only increases the dehydration and fatigue in both your horse and now you as well.
  6. DO NOT try to give mineral oil yourself either orally or by nasogastric intubation. A standard treatment in addition to pain medication is giving mineral oil, water and electrolytes via a nasogastric tube into the stomach. Your veterinarian is trained how to properly treat your horse with mineral oil.  If mineral oil gets into the lungs it can cause aspiration pneumonia and death.
  7. DO think about how you will get your horse to the hospital if the horse needs to be on intravenous fluids and/or surgery.  If you do not own a trailer or know someone with a trailer, some veterinary clinics/hospitals offer a trailering service at an additional charge to make sure your horse receives the care it needs.

We hate to see are horses or any animal in pain and seeing our horses colic is no exception. These are just a few Do’s and Don’ts that many veterinarians wish horse owners would remember if they have a horse with colic.

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The Author:

Amy Wright was born and raised in the Central Valley of California. She grew up raising and showing a variety of animals from 4-H to National levels. While completing her Bachelor’s degree she was a member of the California State University, Fresno NCAA Equestrian team. Cutting and Sorting are her current passions although she has shown a variety of disciplines from Hunter/Jumper, Western Pleasure, Reining and Barrel Racing. She is a recent graduate from St. Matthew’s University in Grand Cayman and completed her clinical year at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Ok. She was the St. Matthew’s American Association of Equine Practitioners Student Chapter President and has received awards such as a 2012 Winner’s Circle Equine Scholarship Recipient and 2013 Abaxis Award for Excellence in Equine Medicine.

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