Colic and its causes are part of most owners’ horse care vocabulary–an intestinal twist, sand accumulation, or gas buildup might be among the familiar events leading to equine abdominal pain. But owners might not be aware of another, less-frequent cause of colic: gastric impaction. A team of researchers recently found that these impactions of the stomach, if treated promptly, can result in a good prognosis.

To gain a better understanding of gastric impactions, the research team (based in Finland) performed a retrospective study in which they examined 20 gastric impaction cases and their associated clinical signs, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.

"Gastric impaction in horses is a condition characterized by excessive accumulation of ingesta in the stomach that does not clear after an appropriate fasting period," lead author Kati Vainio, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, and ambulatory equine practitioner based in Inkoo, Finland, explained in the study. She added that the condition is caused by a variety of factors including the consumption of certain feeds that swell after ingestion, dental problems that diminish the horse’s ability to chew feed properly, inadequate water supply, excessively rapid eating, and pathophysiological disturbances (changes in the horse’s normal mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions).

Vainio and colleagues recently reviewed the medical records of 6,097 horses admitted to the Hyvinkää Horse Hospital between October 2005 and December 2008. They narrowed their focus to 20 horses diagnosed with a gastric impaction.

The horses diagnosed with gastric impactions (12 mares, seven gel