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How To Avoid Colic in Horses

Horse colic is one of the leading causes of death in horses. The most common forms of colic are gastrointestinal in nature and are most often related to colonic disturbance. Unfortunately, determining the underlying cause of chronic colic can be difficult, which means your horse's colic will continue to recur. Some of the types of colic include pelvic flexure impaction, ileal impaction, sand impaction, enterolith, roundworms and tapeworms, torsion, gastric ulceration and more. The following tips for avoiding colic may help reduce the risk.

  1. Make all feed changes gradually - If you change your horse's diet, do it slowly over a period of two to three weeks.
  2. Schedule frequent, small feedings - If he's not living in a pasture and must be fed in a stall, feed at least three or even four small meals daily.
  3. Minimize carbohydrates - Your horse's inherent grazing lifestyle means he's best adapted to eating pasture or hay. Keep cereal grains such as corn, oats and barley to a minimum.
  4. Don't feed on sand - If your horse is turned out in a sand paddock or a pasture with sandy soil, provide him with hay in a feeder to avoid the chance of ingesting sand with his meal.
  5. Offer plenty of sater - Make sure your horse always has access to plenty of clean, fresh water, and monitor how much he drinks. Water intake significantly benefits the workings of his digestive tract and helps avoid an impaction or build-up of feed that could block his intestine and induce a colic episode. Provide warm water in cold weather, which can increase your horse's water consumption by as much as 40 percent.
  6. Monitor fecal output - With impaction colic, it's likely the only sign you'll notice is a decrease in your horse's fecal output over a period of several days. If you notice that he isn't producing as many fecal piles as normal, try to increase his water intake, feed daily mashes, and soak his hay daily.
  7. Deworm regularly and correctly - Discuss a de-worming program with your veterinarian to ensure you're covering all potentially harmful intestinal parasites.
  8. Schedule regular dentistry - Schedule a dental exam for your horse. The first step of the digestive process is proper chewing, which requires healthy teeth.
  9. Provide regular exercise - Your horse should get at least an hour of exercise every day, either by being ridden or (even better) pasture turnout. This is especially important during the winter months.
  10. Minimize unnecessary medications - If you regularly administer medications such as phenylbutazone (bute) or flunixin meglumine (Banamine) for aches and pains, keep them to a minimum and use only when necessary. These nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications can be hard on your horse's stomach and may even lead to ulcers, another potential cause of chronic colic.