Equine Colic is a group of symptoms rather than a disease in itself that result in colonic obstruction and gastric ulcers. Colic refers to abdominal pain, the external signs of which is uneasiness, sweating, biting at the flanks and other signs of pain. The horse gets up and lies down again. Very acute colic may be caused by a twisted gut and generally requires surgery. Studies show that colic may result from congenital (present at birth) malformation of the large colon, enteroliths (pathological formations of mineral concentrations) which cause colonic obstruction, and equine gastric ulcers. There are three main types of colic:tympanitic, spasmodic and obstructive.
Tympanitic Colic, also called bloat, gastric tympany, wind colic, is usually characterized by continuous pain, caused by an overproduction of gas which distends the gut, sweating, a high pulse and a tense abdomen. The horse might take violent attempts to lie down. Frequent attempt to urinate and flatulence is common. This type of colic occurs when a horse is fed large quantitis of grain or coarse mix. Rich green grass grazed in the spring has the same effect. Treatment include analgesics to control pain; anti-spasmodic drugs; vegetable oils to reduce the fermentation process. The treatment of uncomplicated cases is usually successful.
Spasmodic colic is the most common type of colic, mild in character and short in duration (only a few hours). Seen more often in young horses. Bouts of acute pain, sweating, restlessness, frequent rolling and a tense abdomen are common symptoms. The horse looks repeatedly at its flank. May be caused as a result of blocking the normal passage of gas and intestinal contenets through the gut by migrating strongyle worm larvae; often seen in exhausted, dehydrated horses because of lack of sodium and chlorine ions. Treatment includes anti-spasmodic drugs and sedatives.
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Obstructive colic causes acute pain. The horse rapidly becomes shocked due to the release of toxins into the system. The obstruction can occur on the stomach when it is due to overeating, especially dry material such as nuts, or unsoaked sugar beet. It can also occur in the small intestine as a mechanical obstruction caused by developing tumors, or by a twist, and as a result of hernia. Mechanical obstructions are rare, while food materials are common causes. A sudden change in diet, such as from grass to dry hay or straw, or sand impactions can cause obstruction. Obstructive colic should always be treated as an emergency and is one of the conditions where professional help should be obtained immediately. The decision to operate has to be made quickly, as irreversible changes soon occur in the obstructed tissues.
Impacted colic is lesbs obvious in nature. As the impaction builds up, the horse stops eating and passes increasingly dry and scanty feces. The horse spends a lot of time lying down and frequently looks at its flank. Impacted colic responds well to treatment that consists of softening the impacted mass and massage. This may take a few days, but in complicated cases surgery may be necessary.