Colic is the No. 1 killer of horses in the United States. An extremely relevant topic for both horse owners and veterinarians, a panel of experts gathered to talk about the condition at a workshop hosted by the Dorothy Russell Havemeyer Foundation in August of 2019. Conclusions from the workshop were reviewed at the American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention in December. Panelists include Drs. Frank Andrews, Barbara Dallap-Schaer, Michelle Barton and Diana Hassel.
Topics the vets discussed included the use of mineral oil to mark the passage of liquid through the gastrointestinal tract; other vets used 5 liters of electrolyte fluids. If the impaction is related to sand and the blockage is moving, vets generally will add Epsom salts or psyllium to the fluids they are offering the horse. Giving the colicking horse fluids rectally is also an option when cost is a concern, reports The Horse.
All vets on the panel agreed that the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories on painful horses outweighs the potential harm NSAIDs can cause to the intestinal mucosa. COX-2 inhibitors can be beneficial to horses with small intestine inflammation, they said.
Dr. Andrews will place an apple-flavored bit in the horse's mouth to encourage chewing, which can stimulate small intestine motility. This is also used in human medicine: post-operative ileus patients are sometimes asked to chew gum.
The panelists agreed that while hand-walking is generally a good idea for horses that are actively colicking, it's important to know if that is truly the condition the horse is suffering from; a horse infected with botulism, which can mimic colic symptoms, should not be walked. Colicking horses should never be walked to exhaustion.
Dr. Andrews also noted that he has had success when using acupuncture to relieve impactions colics. While there are no studies to prove that this modality works, Andrews has been able to relieve the impaction when using an acupuncture treatments once daily over the course of several days.
Read more at The Horse.
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