We all know that one cheese-lover who is lactose intolerant. Sad, right? Just like how some humans need a special diet to avoid gastrointestinal distress, horse owners also need to keep track of what they’re feeding their equine companions to avoid colic.
What is Colic in Horses?
Horses have a unique and fragile gastrointestinal system that makes them more prone to abdominal pain and complications. Colic is an umbrella term that means pain in the abdomen, or any related issues. It can range from discomfort to deadly, so knowing how to prevent it could save your horse’s life.
What Causes Colic?
There is a variety of causes when it comes to Colic, ranging from dietary issues to behavior. Some examples are:
- Too much grain in the diet
- Lack of forage in diet
- Dental Problems
- Tainted feed
- Sand ingestion
- Prolonged NSAIDS usage (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug)
There are more causes than what’s listed, but it’s important to know that Colic can be caused by things you may not expect. This way, you’ll know what to look out for.
Signs of Colic include pawing, rolling, bloating, lack of manure passing, excessive sweating, lack of sound from the stomach, disinterest in food and water, general distress, and more.
How to Prevent Colic in Horses
Preventing Colic with Diet
If you can give your horse the ability to graze, that’s great! The closer you can mimic a dietary regimen related to how horses eat in the wild, the better. Lots of foraged foods, with some added grains and supplements if they need more nutrients than what you can provide. You can get your hay analyzed for nutritional density if you’re curious, too.
Grain, sweet feed, and corn-based concentrates create gas because there isn’t enough time to properly digest it and absorb the sugars in the horse’s small intestine. It quickly moves towards the hind-gut, trapping the gas in the rear of the horse. The result is Colic from the painful pressure that the concentrates cause.
Oh, and avoid feeding your horse in sandy areas. Given that ingesting sand causes Colic, we think you get the idea.
Hydration is Key
Good hydration habits are very important when it comes to preventing Colic. Horses need lots of fluids for forage fermentation, food digestion, and much more. If they don’t get enough water, an impaction (blockage the bowel) could occur, along with many other ailments. Colic from impaction can be deadly if not treated, so pay very careful attention to this one.
Keep Up Healthy Habits
Routine floating of your horse’s teeth will ensure that they are able to fully chew their food, lessening the chances of intestinal blockage. Slacking on horse dental care can lead to its own issues, but being able to comfortably eat is a basic need.
Parasites are nasty lil buggers who can mess with multiple aspects of your companion’s health. Tapeworms and other parasites can be managed by knowing what to look out for and adopting a deworming routine that works for you.
On top of these tips, keeping an eye out for unusual behaviors from your horse can tell you if you should seek help. If you’re unsure, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Colic can be unpredictable and time is usually of the essence when it comes to their recovery. If you have further questions about Colic in horses, call your trusted horse health care professional.