The horse’s cecum holds 25-30 liters and allows a horse to digest the cellulose in his forage. Like other parts of the intestine, the cecum can become impacted, and rupture can occur with little warning. The cecal cupula (the cranial, or closest to the head, portion at the base of the cecum) can become impacted as well, but until recently these uncommon impactions had only been reported in conjunction with other cecal problems.

At the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention (AAEP), held Dec 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif., Ceri Sherlock, BVetMed, MS, Dipl. ACVS, MRCVS, of Bell Equine Veterinary Clinic, in Kent, U.K., presented a retrospective study of cecal cupula impactions occurring in seven horses treated at the University of Georgia with no other signs of cecal disease.

Sherlock and her colleagues evaluated records of seven horses that were seen over a 10-year period with cecal cupula impaction as the primary problem. In other words, the horses had no impactions in the remainder of the cecum, no obvious predispositions to cecal disease, and no other abdominal lesions.

The horses ranged from 2 to 23 years old and were of varying breeds and weights. Most were male. Three horses had histories of recurrent colic, and three had a history of weight loss. Four had consumed a diet of coastal Bermuda grass hay, while the remaining three had eaten primarily alfalfa hay.

The average duration from the onset of clinical signs to referral was 43 hours, suggesting that the horses’ initial pain was fairly mild. Indeed, even after reaching the referral facilities, the average time to elapse before surgery was a total of 47