Colic : Detect, Prevent, Learn

Colic: Detect, Prevent and Learn

As horse owners and carers, we are likely to have come across a horse with colic at least once throughout our equestrian careers, but exactly how much do you know about equine colic and how prepared are you?

What is Colic?

Colic is the term used to describe abdominal pain in horses that is caused by problem in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Ranging in severity, there are around 70 different GI tract problems that can cause a horse to colic. Colic is one of the most common causes of death in horses, however developments to veterinary medicine have resulted in far better prognosis thanks to improved diagnostics and better treatment.
If you’re unfamiliar with how the horse’s digestive system works, check out this great video from Dengie Horse Feeds, where Equine nutritionists Katie Williams and Claire Akers show you around the horse’s digestive system using a life size model. 

Know the signs!

Early diagnosis of colic is one of the most important factors to ensure the highest chance of survival. Therefore it is vital as a horse owner/carer that you know the key signs:

·       A horse suffering from colic will often paw at the ground.
·       A colicing horse may sweat, even if they haven’t done a physical work out!
·       Likewise, the horse may have a high pulse and breathing rate, despite only being stood still in the stable!
·       A key sign of Colic is when you see a horse trying to kick their stomach.
·       A horse suffering from Colic will roll a lot!
·       A colicing horse may also stretch as if to pass urine.
·       An early sign of Colic may be your horse showing little interest in their food.

If you’re interested in learning more about the different types of Colic, take a look at this excellent resource from the University of Liverpool Equine Hospital!

This is based on these signs that we developed our horse monitoring system to automatically alert for signs of colic.

What to do until the vet arrives

If you have any doubt at all that your horse is suffering from colic phone your vet immediately. Until they arrive you should:

·       Keep the horse in a safe place; a stable with lots of bedding is ideal! Remove any objects which could be a hazard when rolling such as buckets. For your own safety, stay out of the stable unless completely necessary.
·       Hand walking for 15-20 minutes can help reduce the pain, but do not force the horse to exercise if it just wants to roll!
·       It’s unlikely a sick horse will want to drink, but you should still offer water unless the horse is in extreme pain.
·       When the vet arrives, they might suggest the horses should be taken into the hospital for further assessment, so make sure you have suitable travel arrangements. Furthermore, check that your horse’s insurance covers colic – this will save time later!

Colic Surgery

Less than 10% of colic cases require veterinary surgery. Colic surgery is a complex veterinary procedure which requires a highly skilled team of surgeons, which is made even more complicated because it needs to be done quickly whilst under anaesthetic. Putting horses under anaesthetic carries a high element of risk, even more so when treating colic because of the harmful effects of toxins released from the stomach. The main intention of colic surgery is to examine the abdomen to identify the problem within the GI tract that is causing the horse to colic.

Sadly, in some situations surgery cannot cure colic, so a decision is made with the horses welfare at highest priority. However, 80% of colic surgery patients will return home after surgery. Once the horse has fully recovered and rehabilitated, there is no reason why they cannot return to their previous job as an event horse, show jumper or happy hacker!

Preventing Colic

Some horses are simply more prone to colic than others, but there are several horse care procedures we as horse owners need to be aware of to prevent our horses from suffering colic.

1.     It has been proven that horses that are turned out at pasture have a lower risk of colic than those kept in stables, so make the most of those grassy paddocks!
2.     If you feed your horse hay or hard feed when in the field, make sure you keep it away from sandy areas because the sand can irritate their intestines.
3.     Ensure your horse has a constant supply of clean, fresh water.
4.     Lots of hard feed can increase colic risk, so only feed what is necessary.
5.     Teeth are one of the most important parts of the digestive system, so make sure you get an equine dentist check them every 6 months.

Detect Colic and Act Sooner with Trackener

In serious colic cases, early diagnosis is one of the most important factors to ensure the highest chance of survival post surgery.
Trackener’s 24/7 monitoring system could allow owners to detect colic quicker and so to act sooner with a phone call to the vets. Trackers in built motion sensors and heart rate monitor can sense two of the most common symptoms: increased heart rate and excessive rolling and time spent lying down. Our system will detect the early signs of Colic and alert you via our smartphone app 24/7, wherever you are in the world, allowing you to always be by your horse’s side.

Pauline, one of Trackener’s founder, has experienced and heard a lot about fatal colic cases. That’s one of the reason why she decided to create Trackener, with the mission to help reducing the number of horses who die from colic. With advances in veterinary medicine, the survival rate of colic is a lot higher now than it was 20 years ago. The most important factor in colic survival is to minimize the time interval from the onset of colic to the horse being treated by a veterinarian and soon Trackener  will contribute to reducing this time.

Major causes of colic are: change in the feeding regime, and stress due to unusual hard exercise, travel, or change of environment or routine. By monitoring the horse’s activity and behaviour 24/7, Trackener helps you check that the horse is adapting well to any change and see straight away if something is not right, like a sudden change in overall activity. Because problems like colic can always happen, Trackener gives you all the insights you need to act sooner and keep your horses at their best.