Common ailments that impact horses: Colic and ulcers | TSLN.com

Common ailments that impact horses: Colic and ulcers

Bill Brewster

More than 50 horsemen from around the region learned up-to-date information about the prevention and treatment of colic and stomach ulcers during the second winter lecture at the Copper Spring Ranch Equine Sports Medicine Center.

The program was presented on Jan. 20 by Dr. Lisa Baller, DVM, CVA, a member of the veterinary staff at this regional medical facility for horses, and Justin Smith, an equine sales representative for Merial. It covered a broad spectrum of topics that are associated with these common ailments that impact horses across the state.

“Colic is the number one killer of horses, but most cases of colic are mild and resolved with simple medical treatment,” Dr. Baller told the audience. She pointed out that colic is not a disease, but merely a symptom of a disease. It is defined as any abdominal pain that can come from any abdominal organ and not just a gastro-intestinal (GI) abnormality.

Baller said the first step is to recognize the symptoms of colic. To minimize colic impact, identify the problem early and call your veterinarian immediately, she advised.

Signs of colic include: leaving food and an absence of appetite; repeatedly lying down; turning the head toward the flank; pawing, kicking or biting at the belly; repeated rolling; sitting in a dog-like position and stretching out and posturing to urinate. Other signs include the horse holding its head in an unusual posit, lack of bowel movements, reduced or absent digestive sounds and inappropriate sweating. Horses, she said, can show rapid breathing and/or flared nostrils, an elevated pulse rate (greater than 50 beats per minute), depression and lip curling.

If these symptoms are noticed, Baller said to call a veterinarian, remove all food while leaving some water, and keep the horse in an area where it can be observed. She said to allow rest, but walk the horse around if it is continually rolling or in danger of hurting itself.

Recommended Stories For You

Important information that the horse owner can obtain include the specific colic signs such as pulse or heart rate, respiratory rate, digestive sounds, rectal temperature and color and moisture of the gums. She said it helps the veterinarian to have information on recent changes in diet and exercise and the medical history of the horse.

Horse owners should avoid passing any kind of tube into the horse’s stomach, giving the horse any substance by mouth, inserting anything into the rectum or giving intravenous injections.

If the horse needs to be transported to a veterinary clinic, she suggested dividers be removed so the horse can be loose in the trailer with deep bedding.

Baller said colic can be classified in three categories: intestinal dysfunctions; intestinal accidents; or inflammation or ulceration.

Intestinal dysfunctions such as spasms, gas distention, impaction and decreased motility are the most common and generally respond well to medical treatment.

Intestinal accidents such as twists and entrapments which restrict blood flow in parts of the intestine generally require surgery, she said.

Inflammation or ulceration, which is caused by stress, medication, infection and parasites, generally requires medical treatment.

Along with surgery, other treatments used by veterinarians include pain relievers, fluid therapy by intravenous or nasogastric routes, laxatives and tranquilizers.

Prevention programs and good management, of course, are the best way to minimize and deal with the threats of colic, Baller said.

It’s also important to establish a set routine and incorporate an adequate roughage ration while not over-feeding grain. Baller said the daily concentrated rations should be divided.

Establishing a parasite control program and providing exercise or daily turnout time should be followed along with proper dental care.

Other preventatives measures include gradually making diet changes while providing clean and fresh water, and avoiding the applications of equine medications unless prescribe by a veterinarian.

Horse owners should check hay, bedding and pastures for potentially toxic substances. In addition, they should avoid feeding on gravel or sand for fear of causing sand colic.

More than 50 horsemen from around the region learned up-to-date information about the prevention and treatment of colic and stomach ulcers during the second winter lecture at the Copper Spring Ranch Equine Sports Medicine Center.

The program was presented on Jan. 20 by Dr. Lisa Baller, DVM, CVA, a member of the veterinary staff at this regional medical facility for horses, and Justin Smith, an equine sales representative for Merial. It covered a broad spectrum of topics that are associated with these common ailments that impact horses across the state.

“Colic is the number one killer of horses, but most cases of colic are mild and resolved with simple medical treatment,” Dr. Baller told the audience. She pointed out that colic is not a disease, but merely a symptom of a disease. It is defined as any abdominal pain that can come from any abdominal organ and not just a gastro-intestinal (GI) abnormality.

Baller said the first step is to recognize the symptoms of colic. To minimize colic impact, identify the problem early and call your veterinarian immediately, she advised.

Signs of colic include: leaving food and an absence of appetite; repeatedly lying down; turning the head toward the flank; pawing, kicking or biting at the belly; repeated rolling; sitting in a dog-like position and stretching out and posturing to urinate. Other signs include the horse holding its head in an unusual posit, lack of bowel movements, reduced or absent digestive sounds and inappropriate sweating. Horses, she said, can show rapid breathing and/or flared nostrils, an elevated pulse rate (greater than 50 beats per minute), depression and lip curling.

If these symptoms are noticed, Baller said to call a veterinarian, remove all food while leaving some water, and keep the horse in an area where it can be observed. She said to allow rest, but walk the horse around if it is continually rolling or in danger of hurting itself.

Important information that the horse owner can obtain include the specific colic signs such as pulse or heart rate, respiratory rate, digestive sounds, rectal temperature and color and moisture of the gums. She said it helps the veterinarian to have information on recent changes in diet and exercise and the medical history of the horse.

Horse owners should avoid passing any kind of tube into the horse’s stomach, giving the horse any substance by mouth, inserting anything into the rectum or giving intravenous injections.

If the horse needs to be transported to a veterinary clinic, she suggested dividers be removed so the horse can be loose in the trailer with deep bedding.

Baller said colic can be classified in three categories: intestinal dysfunctions; intestinal accidents; or inflammation or ulceration.

Intestinal dysfunctions such as spasms, gas distention, impaction and decreased motility are the most common and generally respond well to medical treatment.

Intestinal accidents such as twists and entrapments which restrict blood flow in parts of the intestine generally require surgery, she said.

Inflammation or ulceration, which is caused by stress, medication, infection and parasites, generally requires medical treatment.

Along with surgery, other treatments used by veterinarians include pain relievers, fluid therapy by intravenous or nasogastric routes, laxatives and tranquilizers.

Prevention programs and good management, of course, are the best way to minimize and deal with the threats of colic, Baller said.

It’s also important to establish a set routine and incorporate an adequate roughage ration while not over-feeding grain. Baller said the daily concentrated rations should be divided.

Establishing a parasite control program and providing exercise or daily turnout time should be followed along with proper dental care.

Other preventatives measures include gradually making diet changes while providing clean and fresh water, and avoiding the applications of equine medications unless prescribe by a veterinarian.

Horse owners should check hay, bedding and pastures for potentially toxic substances. In addition, they should avoid feeding on gravel or sand for fear of causing sand colic.

editor’s note: for more information about the next lecture and to make reservations, call 406-522-4044 or go to http://www.copperspringranch.com.

Go back to article