SPRING­TIME COLIC THREAT

EQUUS - - Hands On -

Colic can strike a horse at any time of year. But some types of gas­troin­testi­nal dis­tur­bances are more likely dur­ing cer­tain sea­sons. In the spring­time, gas is the usual cul­prit.

Gas colic de­vel­ops when a horse in­gests for­age that is high in sugar---usu­ally lush spring grass---and ex­ces­sive fer­men­ta­tion oc­curs in the gut, which cre­ates a buildup of gas. Horses can­not burp, but they can of course ex­pel gas in the other di­rec­tion. How­ever, the length of the equine in­testi­nal tract means that some gas pock­ets may not be able to es­cape. If the trapped gas con­tin­ues to ac­cu­mu­late, the stretch­ing of the in­testi­nal wall may be­come painful.

The signs of gas colic may be tran­sient, as the gas pock­ets shift. The horse may kick or nip at his flanks, re­peat­edly lie down and seem with­drawn and pre­oc­cu­pied. If you lis­ten to his gut you may hear many gur­gles (tech­ni­cally called bor­bo­rygmi). Although gas colic may clear on its own, don’t take a wait-and­see ap­proach. A gas-filled in­tes­tine can twist on it­self, lead­ing to a tor­sion that re­quires im­me­di­ate surgery. Call your vet­eri­nar­ian at the first sign of colic.

Your vet­eri­nar­ian will first do a rec­tal exam to rule out blockages or dis­place­ments. The next step is typ­i­cally to pass a na­so­gas­tric tube, which can be both a di­ag­nos­tic test and a treat­ment. When the tube en­ters the stom­ach of a horse with gas colic, it pro­vides an out­let for the gas to es­cape. Your vet­eri­nar­ian will smell the gas rush­ing out, and your

Gas colic de­vel­ops when a horse in­gests for­age that is high in sugar– usu­ally lush spring grass–and ex­ces­sive fer­men­ta­tion oc­curs in the gut, which cre­ates a buildup of gas.

horse may im­me­di­ately look re­lieved as the pres­sure is eased. Of­ten, this is all that is nec­es­sary to re­solve the colic.

If your horse re­quires fur­ther treat­ment, your vet­eri­nar­ian may pre­scribe an anti-spas­modic drug such as Bus­co­pan or a painkiller such as Banamine. Once com­fort­able and re­laxed, most horses pass the gas and re­cover quickly. Still, it’s wise to be watch­ful for 24 hours to make sure there are no fur­ther trou­bles.

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