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About Horse Colic

About Horse Colic

By Betsy Kelleher

     When a fellow boarder at our stable had to deal with colic recently, I decided to share some things learned from her experience. I’ve had to deal with colic myself, and I’ve lost two horses that way (one was my husband’s). Colic is the leading cause of premature death for horses.    

     I’ve had three horses with colic that got through it. My Lady was one of them, after she ingested limestone while eating her hay! I wrote about that in my October column of 2008, titled Lady’s Progress, which is still on my website. My first mare, Fanny, had several bouts of colic until I started adding a handful of wet wheat bran in her feed. Colic has several possible causes, and each case is different.

     For a long time, I’ve known that a drop in temperature can cause colic, but my research for this column helped me understand why! Horses drink more when it’s warm and less when it’s cooler. So it makes sense that a temperature drop could cause a horse to drink less water, which in turn could cause an impaction. That’s probably what happened to my friend’s horse! Two days later, I noticed that Lady’s water bucket was almost full when I went to the barn. It is usually close to empty! I was sure happy to see her bucket empty again the next day.

     I remember talking to another friend not long ago about a product that is supposed to stop colic within 30 to 45 minutes. When I looked for it online, I actually found three similar products! Since I haven’t tried any of them, I will offer links to all three websites for anyone interested.

     There is good information on these websites. The first product is Equine Colic Relief, athttp://www.equinecolicreliefusa.com/ which claims a shelf life of twelve years, and costs $85 with shipping included. All-natural ingredients are listed on the site.

     A similar product is called SayWhoa, at http://stopscolic.com. One bottle sells for $88 plus $5 shipping. They also have a potassium free product for horses with the HYPP gene, for a dollar more. That may seem expensive, unless it saves a vet call and a horse’s life. You may notice one page of this site lists a shelf life of three years, while another page lists five years.

     A cheaper product is Equine GutFlush, selling for $65 plus $5.95 shipping, found atwww.stophorsecolic.com. This site has some great information on types of colic and symptoms.

     Another possibility is a product called Kolik Eaz, by Silver Lining Herbs. I have used several of their other products with great satisfaction. A tube of Kolik Eaz, one dose, is $14.75, or get a larger packet of powder that can be mixed with water for more doses, for $20.25, plus shipping. Natural ingredients are listed on the website:http://www.silverliningherbs.com/product/17-kolik-eaz-equine/.

     Remember that colic is merely a symptom of a condition. Most horse owners know the signs: a horse drops to the ground and rolls in pain, kicks or bites at the sides, isn’t drinking water or eating. But those signs don’t define the problem.

     Some cases are mild. For these, if you have any experience, you may know what to do without calling a vet. You walk the horse to prevent any violent rolling which could twist a gut. I’ve even had someone help me by walking behind with a whip, to keep my horse moving. Turning a horse out to run freely may cause more damage. While waiting for a vet, its best to walk the horse until it can stand and eat grass or rest without going down. My friend was told to walk her horse for 15 minutes every few hours. Some horse owners keep Banamine on hand, to relieve pain. Yet I have read that Banamine could prevent a vet’s accurate diagnosis. It’s best to ask the vet first.   

     If your horse is showing severe pain, call a vet immediately. All three product websites agree that if their products haven’t brought results in 30 to 60 minutes, call the vet without delay. None of these products will fix a twisted gut, a heavy impaction, or a rupture. The only fix in such cases may be surgery, and time is of the essence, as they say. For my friend’s horse, the vet was able to remove his impaction during a barn call, and he has recovered!

     So keep watch on your horse’s water, especially as temperatures cool down or fluctuate as they do this time of year. If your horse isn’t drinking, add a little salt in the feed to encourage thirst. Or wet the hay. Grass is good for moisture and electrolytes, and it’s less apt to cause impaction. Avoid rapid changes in feed and avoid moldy hay. Regular worming can prevent damage that leads to colic. And if you ride on warm days, or go further than usual, offer water frequently to prevent dehydration. I learned that the hard way.  

     I hope you never get a call from your boarding stable that your horse is down, with signs of colic. A daily watch on the basics may help prevent it. Learn to take temperature, pulse and respiration. It’s good to have a stethoscope on hand or be able to put your ear to the belly and listen for gut sounds. Rapid breathing often means pain. Check gum color. If gums are purplish or bright red, be sure to call the vet immediately. Check for dehydration, by pushing on the gum or do a pinch test of neck skin. Ask your vet to show you how to do these tests. And remember that a horse’s eyes can tell you much. Are they alert, bright and active? Or is your horse acting disinterested and lethargic?

     The information I’ve shared in this column is not meant to be a substitute for calling a vet! If you know your horse and have some experience, that’s good. But colic is a sign that something is wrong, and you can’t always tell at first if it’s a mild case or worse. Do what you can to prevent colic, especially now that November brings colder days. And call a vet when symptoms appear. We want to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving later this month! 

     I’m going to suggest you start early to list things you are thankful for. Though I do not look forward to colder weather—and I’m hoping this winter won’t be as bad as last year’s—I do plan to get some photos of the beauty that God provides. I love to take lots of photos of fall foliage and collect beautiful leaves as they fall. Start now to look for signs of His blessings in YOUR life! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

ADDED NOTE: One of my readers had offered a remedy that I actually forgot to include! So here it is. She heard this idea while taking a natural farrier course with Ida Hammer,who mentioned using 6 ultra  peppermint Tums if your horse starts to colic. If the horse won't eat it from your hand, smash it into powder,mix it with water and shoot it in the mouth with a syringe. This reader has also used this in conjunction with peppermint Young Living essential oils rubbed on the belly with TTouch techniques. Yes, this reader just happens to know about energy work. Her name is Maureen Keller (Maryville, IL) and her phone number is 618-972-8267 if anyone is interested in her services. And this is an unpaid for advertisement. LOL

(Originally published in the November 2014 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)

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