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The Do’s and Don’ts of COLIC

Number 1: DO Check your horse’s vital signs. 

Normal heart rate in horses: 36-40 Beats per Minute 

Normal Temperature: 99.0-101.5 F

Number 2: DO look for the presence of feces in the stall or pen. Absent or reduced amounts of manure could indicate a problem.

Number 3: DO call your veterinarian immediately, regardless of the severity. Waiting too long could allow minor problems to become severe and severe problems to become untreatable. 

Describe your horse’s vital signs and clinical signs. The on-call vet can ask questions over the phone to better assess whether your horse needs to be examined right away for if you can administer banamine and monitor clinical signs. 

Number 4: DON’T use a wait-and-see approach before talking with your veterinarian. There are certain types of colic that need immediate treatment to increase the chances for a positive outcome.

Number 5: DO closely monitor your horse, clinical signs can worsen or change quickly. The horse should be checked on every 15-20 minutes.

Number 6: DO walk your horse, if it’s safe and recommended by your veterinarian. Walking can stimulate gut motility and prevent injury from rolling.

Number 7: DON’T feed a colicking horse (hay, grass, or grain), as food could exacerbate the problem. Even when colicking, some horses will still want to eat as a response to pain.

Number 8: DO withhold water until the veterinarian can examine the horse and pass a stomach tube. If the stomach is distended, allowing the horse to drink could result in a ruptured stomach.

Number 9: DON’T medicate without your veterinarian’s approval. It is important for your veterinarian to know the dose, time and response to banamine when treating your colicking horse.

Appropriate use of banamine for 1000lb horses  

Injectable Liquid: administer 10cc orally

Paste: administer 1000lb dose

Banamine should only be administered every 12 hours. 

If your horse is still in pain 30 minutes after receiving banamine, your veterinarian needs to be notified.

Number 11: DON’T administer anything, especially mineral oil via a nasogastric tube or syringe into the horse’s mouth. If done incorrectly and the horse aspirates it into the lungs, it could be fatal. 

Number 12: DON’T administer enemas. A horse's rectum is fragile and if there is a tear it can lead to peritonitis, which can be fatal. 

Number 13: DO start preparing for trailering at the onset of clinical signs. Ideally, you should have a contingency plan for trailering prior to a colic that might require referral. It’s also a good idea to maintain your truck/trailer so they are ready in an emergency such as this.

Number 14: DO maintain consistent feeding and introduce feed changes gradually. The most common association with colic is recent changes in hay or feed. Try to make changes gradually over 10 days. 

Number 15: .DO encourage drinking to reduce risk of impaction colic. Add electrolytes, Gatorade or even handfuls of grain into a bucket of water to try and encourage drinking. Feed grain mashes during dramatic weather shifts. 

Number 16: DO take steps to reduce the amount of sand your horse eats. Keep hay off sandy surfaces. If your horse likes to pull his hay out of the container and eat it off the ground, lay mats around the container.

You can check stool samples from your horse for sand. prone to sand colic. Put a few fecal balls in a ziplock bag, add water and shake until all the feces is mixed with the water. Hang the bag with one corner lower than the other, check after 5 minutes of hanging to determine the amount of sand settled in the lowest corner. 

Administer psyllium products, according to your vet’s instructions. 

Number 17: DO consider management changes if your horse has colicked before. Consult with your veterinarian to decide what management changes are best suited to your horse's needs. 

Number 18: DO consider gastric ulcer prevention methods for highly stressed horses or performance horses, per veterinary instructions. Endoscopic exam is the gold standard approach for diagnosing ulcers and can be important for reducing mild intermittent colic. 

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