4 things to do when your horse has colic

After you've called your veterinarian, take these steps to keep your horse comfortable and increase his chances for recovery.

Take steps to keep things from getting worse

Most colicky horses will not eat or drink, but as a precaution, remove all food and water from the stall. Any intake could worsen an impaction or blockage.

Determine whether walking might help.

As a general rule, if a colicky horse is  lying down or standing quietly,  there is no need to walk him—just  let him be. If, however, the horse is restless and repeatedly lies down  and rises, walking might help distract him and, in that way, make him feel a bit better. That said, if your horse is extremely agitated he is a danger to everyone around him: Put him in an indoor arena, paddock or another  open area and stay clear until the  veterinarian arrives.

Gather clues for the veterinarian

If a colicking horse is lying down quietly, there is no need to walk him. (Getty Images)

• Take your horse’s temperature if he is calm enough to allow you to do it safely. This is important information because a horse with a fever as well as gastro­intestinal pain may have an infectious condition in addition to colic.

• Check your horse’s gums. Pale gums can be a sign of shock. Brick-red gums may indicate dehydration or a toxic condition, such as poisoning or endotoxemia.

• Check your horse’s pulse. Heart rate is a good indicator of pain and  the severity of colic. You can take a horse’s pulse under his jaw near the jowl or at the back of a pastern. Or,  if you have a stethoscope and know how to use it, listen directly to his heart. A horse in pain who has a heart rate of more than 60 beats per minute (normal is 48 or lower) may have a  serious condition.

• Collect and set aside any manure the horse passes for the veterinarian to inspect. The color and consistency of manure provides valuable clues to the cause of the colic, and your veterinarian may decide to send a sample for laboratory testing.

Prepare for possible referral to a clinic

Horses have a much greater chance of surviving severe colic if they are sent to an equine hospital early. That’s why your veterinarian will not hesitate to refer any case she thinks may require surgical treatment.

• If you have a trailer, ask a friend to hook it up and fill the truck with gas.

• If you have to borrow a trailer, start making phone calls to friends who have them. Arrange to borrow a trailer if need be.

• Collect any management records —regarding deworming, medications or recent veterinary procedures— that may have a bearing on your horse’s case.

What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!