Ask the Vet Large Animal

Summer 2004



Dr. Dale Shilling
Equine Clinic
Ambler, PA
Dr. Shilling is a well-known area equine vet. He has been practicing in the Philadelphia region for 25 years, and is favored among local riders and organizations regarding information support!  


Colic means abdominal pain (in other words, a stomach ache)
Signs/symptoms of colic:
1) Off feed & water; reduced or absent digestive sounds.
2) Pawing, looking at belly, biting at belly.
3) Abnormal manure production - diarrhea or no manure.
4) Sweating, rolling.
5) Stretching as if to urinate but not doing so.
6) Often an elevated heart rate (30-42 beats per minute is normal; greater than 60 is serious).
7) An elevated respiratory rate of short, shallow breaths
(12-20 per minute is normal).
8) Temperature may be above or below normal(usually 100 F)
9) Gums should be pink with 2 second capillary refill.
What horses are most likely to colic?
The Morris Animal Foundation has determined risk factors associated with the occurrence of colic:
1) Brood mares are twice as likely to colic as others.
2) Arabians are 2.5 times as likely to colic as Thoroughbreds.
3) Horses being cared for by someone other than their owners are 2-3 times more apt to colic.
4) Horses allowed access to pasture are at a much lower risk of colic.
5) Horses that are not allowed access to water (for as little as 2-3 hours) are 10 times more likely to colic.
6) Colic risk is higher in horses consuming whole grain corn.
7) Horses on a daily wormer program had significantly reduced incidence of colic.
8) Previous history of colic increases the likelihood of repeat.

EDITORS NOTE: Transporting horses, especially long distances, provides for an increased risk of colic. Discuss ahead!


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