Performance Horse Nutrition

Colic is a general term given for any abdominal pain. There are many types and causes of colic, as well as predisposing factors. Digestive colic, the true form of colic, can be caused by feeding and management practices. The intestine may become blocked and twisted, or gas may develop. A horse’s digestive system is highly sensitive; therefore, colic is a major cause of death in horses. There are five types of digestive colic: spasmodic, impaction, incarceration, displacement, and excessive fermentation. It is important that any person who owns or works with horses be able to recognize the symptoms of colic and determine whether or not a veterinarian should be called. Symptoms of horse colic include refusal to eat, nipping at their own sides, kicking at their abdomen, stretching or straining during defecation, violent rolling or shaking, excessive perspiration, lip curling, cool extremities, fewer bowel movements or a high pulse rate. Colic can possibly be prevented by restricting access to carbohydrates, providing clean feed and drinking water, preventing the ingestion of dirt or sand by using an elevated feeding surface, a regular feeding schedule, regular de-worming, and a regular diet that does not change substantially in content or proportion and prevention of heatstroke. Avoid keeping horses stalled more than 50% of the time. Keep horses active other than just by turning them out in the pasture. Avoid accidental overfeeding. Steer clear of feeding moldy feed and try to slow the rate of feed consumption by placing a salt block or other object in the feed tub. The implementation of these management practices can help prevent the occurrence of colic.

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