Colic is a word describing the symptoms seen when a horse has abdominal pain. These symptoms usually start as very mild signs (looking at its flank, pawing the ground, slightly off feed) and, depending on the cause, can progress to very violent signs (rolling from side to side, sweating, groaning). The causes of colic are many and include migrating worm larvae, gas, gut infections, gut inflammations, soft impactions (all of these are medical colics – ie they can usually be fixed by a vet using medicine); through to twisted bowel, hard impactions (these are surgical colics and require surgery to correct them).
Taking measures to minimise worm challenge to the horse from pasture larvae is one of the main methods of preventing colic. If your horse is a fast eater, putting a big stone in his feed bowl to slow him down helps. Avoid giving your horse a large drink after exercise. Talk to your vet if your horse has recurrent bouts of colic.
Always call your vet if your horse shows signs of colic. The earlier a surgical colic is diagnosed and referred for surgery, the better your chances of your horse surviving. While waiting for your vet, if the horse is not too violent, put a halter on and walk it. Remove feed from your horse, allow only small amounts of water, check its temperature (should be 37.8 Degrees Centigrade) – if higher than 38.0 Degrees Centigrade call your vet. After walking for 20 – 30 minutes, put your horse back in the stall and watch for further signs. If your horse insists on laying down, allow this but try to stop it from rolling. Medical colics are usually treated by your vet with pain relievers and gut lubricants.