Important Colic Observations


A history of the events that preceded the colic examination often provides valuable information in interpreting the findings.

A detailed history may not be practical or possible in an emergency; however, any history of previous health problems (including colic), the age, breed, and sex of the horse, the duration of the clinical signs, the severity and frequency of the colic episodes, fecal production, and the time the horse was last judged to be normal are helpful information the owner should try to provide his or her veterinarian.

Nutrition may also be an appropriate topic to address, since it is believed that changes in feeding or other factors of nutrition may be involved in the development of colic. Access to sand and/or poor-quality forage is noteworthy. In certain geographic areas, feeding improperly cured alfalfa hay may be linked to colic associated with blister beetles. An owner should provide the history and specific practices of deworming.

Access to clean, palatable water is important and should be addressed by either indirect examination or specific discussion with the veterinarian. Owners/caretakers of mares that experience colic should provide breeding histories and stages of pregnancy to the examining veterinarian.

It is imperative to tell the veterinarian about any and all medications administered to the horse, as interpretation of the examination findings is likely to be affected by these medications. A horse that appears to be comfortable during the examination but has received repetitive doses of medication is clearly different than a horse that has received no medication. However, these two horses may be clinically in distinguishable unless the medication history is provided.

About the Author

Bradford G. Bentz, VMD, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, ABVP (equine)

Brad Bentz, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, ABVP, ACVECC, owns Bluegrass Equine Performance and Internal Medicine in Lexington, Ky., where he specializes in advanced internal medicine and critical care focused on helping equine patients recuperate at home. He’s authored numerous books, articles, and papers about horse health and currently serves as commission veterinarian for the Kentucky State Racing Commission.

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