EQUUS - - Handson -

The risk of colic in win­ter is well known, but don’t let your guard down dur­ing the sum­mer. Two types of colic can strike as a re­sult of warm weather con­di­tions, and know­ing how they oc­cur will help you to pre­vent them:

• Im­paction colic. De­hy­dra­tion from heavy sweat­ing and/or re­duced wa­ter in­take, com­bined with dry hay or pas­ture in a drought sit­u­a­tion, can lead to im­paction colic. These im­pactions com­monly oc­cur at the pelvic flex­ure, the lo­ca­tion where the large in­tes­tine dou­bles back on it­self. A horse with sim­ple im­paction colic may seem only mildly un­com­fort­able, but if the block­age com­pro­mises blood sup­ply to the in­tes­tine, pain can quickly in­ten­sify.

Vet­eri­nar­i­ans typ­i­cally di­ag­nose im­paction colic with a rec­tal exam and by not­ing the ab­sence of re­flux (fluid backed up in the stom­ach) through a na­so­gas­tric tube. (If there is re­flux, the prob­lem is more se­ri­ous, and the block­age is prob­a­bly in the small in­tes­tine.) Treat­ment in­volves na­so­gas­tric flu­ids, lax­a­tives and pos­si­bly in­tra­venous flu­ids to re­hy­drate the horse and soften the mass, along with med­i­ca­tion to con­trol pain un­til it passes. In the rare cases when a block­age doesn’t clear on its own, the horse may re­quire surgery.

Pre­vent sum­mer im­paction colic by en­sur­ing your horse has plenty of fresh wa­ter at all times. If you’ve pro­vided wa­ter but sus­pect your horse is drink­ing less than he usu­ally does (most horses

drink be­tween five and 10 gal­lons a day) or if he shows any signs of de­hy­dra­tion, such as dark gums or skin that stays “tented” when pinched, call your vet­eri­nar­ian for ad­vice.

• GAS COLIC. When grass re­cov­ers af­ter a drought-break­ing rain, the su­gars it con­tains can fer­ment in an un­pre­pared di­ges­tive tract, lead­ing to gas colic. This is es­sen­tially Mother Na­ture caus­ing the very same sud­den di­etary shift horse own­ers are cau­tioned to not make them­selves. Gas colic can be in­tensely painful as the bub­bles work their way through the di­ges­tive tract.

Your vet­eri­nar­ian will di­ag­nose this type of colic based on rec­tal pal­pa­tion, the ab­sence of re­flux when a na­so­gas­tric tube is passed and the horse’s re­sponse to anal­gesic med­i­ca­tions; gas col­ics typ­i­cally re­spond very quickly to a dose of flu­nixin meg­lu­mine or bus­co­pan. Most gas col­ics re­solve with time, but move­ment of a large gas bub­ble can cause an in­tes­tine to twist,

cut­ting off the flow of blood. In these cases, med­i­ca­tion does not re­lieve pain and surgery is needed to re­pair the twist and re­store cir­cu­la­tion.

To pre­vent gas colic in the sum­mer, be cau­tious about how much you let your horse graze dur­ing times of pas­ture growth and re­growth. A graz­ing muz­zle will al­low him to en­joy turnout while lim­it­ing his grass in­take.

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