Colic In Horses
Colic is a general term used to describe any abdominal pain.
10% of all horses will have an episode of colic in their lives – some may suffer several episodes.
Colic can be extremely serious and may be fatal in some cases, although other cases can be easily resolved.
If you suspect your horse might have colic, it is important to phone the vet as soon as possible to arrange a visit.
Whilst waiting for the vet try to keep the horse calm, and remove hay and feed from the stable if it is safe to do so – remember that horses with colic can be violent, and do not put yourself in danger. If possible, note if the horse has passed faeces, and if so do they have a normal consistency and appearance.
Signs of colic in horses
- Looking uncomfortable
- Lying down frequently
- Patchy sweating
- Not eating
- Increased heart rate and respiratory rate
- Violently rolling
What causes colic in horses?
Colic can have a number of different causes however, in some cases no specific cause can be found.
Causes of colic can include:
- Altered diet/management
- Change in environment/weather
- Poor teeth
Emergency Horse Rescue
The Emergency Services Protocol has been launched to aid in the quick and safe rescue of horses in emergency situations.
The initiative was started by the equine industry, most notably the British Equine Veterinary Association, The British Horse Society, and Horse and Hound magazine, in close partnership with the animal rescue experts at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Following stories of horses not receiving sufficient care and treatment from it’s readers Horse and Hound Magazine contacted the BHS about improving the quality of care.
The Emergency Services Protocol For Horses
The aim of the protocol is to minimise delays in injured animals receiving veterinary care.
Previously, emergency services called to an accident had to look through phone directories to find a local vet and this would not always be a specialist equine vet. Now the emergency services have a list of specialist equine centres who will attend an emergency. Scarsdale Vets is on the register for our area and has been since the scheme was launched.
To enable us to provide the best care to horses in any emergencies they might attend, some of our vets have trained with the animal rescue specialists at Hampshire Fire and Rescue service.
The course provided information on controlling the area, making sure everyone working around the horse is safe, the best type of sedation and pain relief for the horse, and when and how to use each one. Most importantly training included a series of techniques using a variety of equipment, including strops, strop guides and heavy limb crooks that allow the horse to be pulled to safety without anyone having to get too close to flailing limbs.
Fortunately delegates on the course were able to practice on Howie and Lucky, two life-sized anatomically-correct horse manikins, who remained obligingly still throughout a series of simulated rescues!
Horse Eye Problems
Injuries to a horse’s eyes can be very serious and may need urgent veterinary attention.
Many injuries to eyes can heal very quickly if treated as soon as possible.
However, any delay may result in short or long term sight defects, and injuries are likely to take a much longer time to heal and need intensive and costly treatment.
If there is a small amount of clear or slightly white discharge from the corner of the eye, but the horse seems comfortable, the eye is fully open and there is no swelling, then you should clean the discharge with clean water.
If the problem persists then a visit should be arranged during normal working hours as antibiotic drops may be required.
Equine eye emergencies
We advise that you phone us IMMEDIATELY if you notice any of the following:
- Swelling to the eye/eyelids
- Refusal to open the eye
- Blood or pus in the eye
- Cuts/trauma close to the eye/eyelids or on the eye itself
- Foreign body (such as grass/twig) in the eye
Horse Wound Care & First Aid
If you find your horse or pony has a wound it is important NOT TO PANIC!
What To Do When Your Horse Is Wounded
Firstly, prevent any further injuries by catching the horse and moving it to a stable or other safe place (unless it is very lame).
Remember that injured horses can be very unpredictable, so get an assistant to hold the horse whilst you examine it.
If the horse is not vaccinated against tetanus (or if the vaccine status is not known) then a visit is vital as soon as possible to ensure the necessary tetanus protection is given. Tetanus is easily preventable, but the disease is very expensive to treat and is often fatal.
Wounds requiring urgent care
The following injuries should be seen by a vet as soon as possible:
- Wounds more than skin deep or a few centimetres long
- Lameness of the injured leg
- Wounds with excessive bleeding or swelling
- Wounds over joints, tendon sheaths and tendons
- Wounds to the eye or surrounding area
- Dirty, contaminated wounds
- Wounds in areas difficult to access and assess
- Puncture wounds
Wounded Horse Care Whilst Waiting For A Vet
Until We Arrive
Whilst waiting for us to attend, apply direct pressure to severely bleeding wounds with clean, non-stick pads/bandages/towels. If possible, bandage them onto the limb and keep them in place until we arrive.
Hose the Wound
Other wounds should be hosed to help clean the wound and remove any existing contamination and debris from the area. Hosing also helps to stem any bleeding, and reduces swelling.
Do Not Apply Wound Powder/Ointments
These may prevent accurate assessment of the wound and prevent further treatment such as stitching. However, wound hydrogels, such as vetalintex or intrasite gel, can be used to prevent the wound from drying out as they are easily washed off. Bandage the wound if possible to keep it clean and prevent further contamination whilst waiting for the vet to attend.
Clean and Protect the Wound
Minor wounds should be cleaned, and then kept clean and protected from flies. Wound hydrogels can be used to keep them moist and promote healing. Any swelling or heat around the wound may indicate infection, and it may be necessary to arrange a visit for appropriate antibiotic treatment.
Laminitis is a potentially very serious condition, resulting in severe pain of the feet.
The pain is caused by inflammation of the sensitive laminae of the feet, which lie between the pedal bone and the hoof wall.
Affected horses and ponies tend to be reluctant to walk, and try to stand on their heels to relieve pressure on the toes.
Laminitis can be fatal in severe cases. The sooner treatment is started the better chance of recovery. Often we work alongside your farrier to ensure the best outcome.
If you suspect a case of laminitis then it is important to phone the practice as soon as possible on 01332 294929.
Prevention of laminitis involves restricting access to lush pasture or frosted grass, making gradual changes to any feeding regimes, ensuring good, regular farrier attention to prevent the toes becoming overly long, and treating any underlying conditions.
Treating Laminitis in Horses
All cases will require anti-inflammatory drugs to help alleviate the pain, and most will also require other treatment to help maintain blood flow to the feet and minimise any movement of the pedal bone within the foot. Our equine veterinary team has a wealth of experience in managing laminitis cases and the sooner we see the cases the more likely we are able to help.
Whilst waiting for veterinary attention, put the horse/pony in a stable, and spread bedding right to the door. Shavings are best if available. Don’t feed any bucket feeds, but do allow access to small amounts of hay. If possible, soak the hay for 30 minutes before feeding to decrease the amount of sugars it contains.
Some cases can be very difficult to treat, and require x-rays, corrective farriery, and prolonged box rest combined with intensive treatment; others will respond well to initial treatment and a period of box rest.
Lameness is a common problem in all horses and ponies, and can have many different causes.
Severe, acute onset lameness most commonly involves the foot, but may also be caused by more serious conditions such as a fracture or tendon/ligament injury.
If the lame leg is obviously injured, swollen or broken, then it is vital to contact the practice as soon as possible to arrange an emergency visit.
If your horse has suddenly gone lame, and there is no sign of any swelling or injury on either the lame leg or elsewhere on the horse, then a foot abscess or bruise is the most likely cause. In most of these cases the affected foot will be much warmer than the other feet, and a digital pulse may be palpable.
Hot-tubbing the foot or poulticing with animalintex may help to alleviate the signs and draw out the infection, however most cases will require a visit to remove the shoe (if present), and pare out any abscess to fully resolve the problem.
Ongoing lameness or recurrent abscesses in the same foot may require further investigations such as radiographs to ensure the pedal bone is not infected or fractured.
For milder lameness problems you should contact us during normal working hours for examination. Some horses will require further investigations at the hospital to help diagnose the problem.
If you are concerned about any lameness problems then you should contact us for advice on 01332 294929.