Life After Colic Surgery

Q: My horse had successful colic surgery about 3 1/2 years ago. He is now for sale, but as soon as someone hears that he had the surgery, they are no longer interested and ignore all the good points about the horse. Is there any statistical data that shows a correlation between colic surgery and future health?


A: There are several potential health problems that can arise after colic surgery, including recurrent colic due to scar tissue (adhesion) formation in the abdomen, weight loss, herniation of the abdominal incision, and recurrence of a twisted bowel. These complications usually occur within the first year after surgery, and their frequency depends on the type of surgery performed. For instance, repeat colic episodes due to adhesion formation are more likely after small intestinal surgery, and post-operative weight loss is more common if a large segment of intestine was removed during surgery. Repeat twisting of the large intestine can occur at any time in the horse's life, but in general is seen in less than 10% of horses that undergo surgery for this type of colic.

You did not describe the type of surgery that was done on your horse, but the fact that he is normal and healthy three years after the procedure makes it unlikely that his future health will be affected by the colic surgery. In fact, I would consider his risk of gastrointestinal disease to be the same as a horse which has never undergone surgical treatment for colic. While many buyers will shy away from your horse, your best chance for a successful sale is to be as open as possible about the surgery and your horse's health since that time. By making your horse's medical records available to the buyer and the buyer's veterinarian, you can decrease their concerns about the surgery and encourage them to perform an unbiased evaluation of your horse.

About the Author

Becky Frankeny, VMD, MS, Dipl. ACVS

Becky Frankeny, VMD, MS, Dipl. ACVS, worked out of Comstock Large Animal Hospital, in Reno, Nev. before moving back to Pennsylvania and starting her own practice: Juniata Mobile Veterinary Service.

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