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Colic in horses: know what it is and how to prevent it

There are a few causes for colic in horses, which can be of several types. Check the main

Horses have anatomical peculiarities in the gastrointestinal tract that make them predisposed to severe abdominal cramping. Do you know what the types and causes of this problem are? Check out! 

Colic in horses: causes

The main causes of equine colic are: 

  • Inadequate or low quality food; 
  • gastric problems; 
  • Food changes; 
  • Insufficient water intake; 
  • Aerophagia; 
  • Stress; 
  • Excessive confinement; 
  • Physical characteristics such as age, sex and race.  


Features of abdominal pain

These abdominal pains are related to several factors, such as fermentation of food, intestinal distension (caused by the production of gases), compaction of the ingested food, twisting or obstruction of the intestine.  

The pain is manifested by signs of discomfort and changes in behavior. Generally, animals show signs of restlessness: they lie down and stand up frequently, tap on the floor, perform defensive movements (kickbacks) and roll on the floor in an attempt to relieve the pain. 

Types of colic in horses

  • Compaction colic: characterized by the accumulation of dehydrated ingesta in any segment of the gastrointestinal tract.   
  • Gas colic: It happens due to the accumulation of gases, causing abdominal pain.  
  • Spasmodic colic: characterized by increased peristaltic contractions due to the accumulation of gases in the horse’s digestive tract.  
  • Parasitic colic: There may be obstruction in the gastrointestinal system caused by a large number of parasites. 
  • Gastric dislocation or torsion: This occurs when the intestine shifts to an abnormal position in the abdomen or gets to the point of actually twisting the intestinal loops.  


Prevention of colic in horses

Horses raised in stalls are more likely to develop colic than animals raised on pasture, mainly as a result of inadequate food management.  

It is common in this breeding system for horses to spend less than four hours a day feeding, receiving a diet rich in concentrate and low in roughage, in complete disagreement with their natural eating habits.   

Forages are essential, as horses are herbivorous animals and need a diet rich in fiber for adequate digestibility and passage of food along the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, proper nutritional management, with a balance between the amount of concentrate and roughage, can reduce the occurrence of colic in horses. 

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