The Many Faces of Colic

Considering the length and volume of the equine digestive system, it’s little wonde

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Considering the length and volume of the equine digestive system, it’s little wonder that colic can have so many causes and clinical signs.

Pop quiz. Is colic:

a) A descriptive term for any of an array of clinical signs indicating equine digestive distress;
b) One of the most common killers of healthy adult horses;
c) Usually resolved without surgical intervention; or
d) All of the above?

The answer is, of course, "d." Colic in horses isn’t so much a disease as it is a collection of clinical signs, the common de-nominator being gut pain. It can arise from any of dozens of causes, which is why it can be so challenging to diagnose and treat.

The good news, according to Anthony Blikslager, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, professor of equine surgery at North Carolina State University, is that the vast majority of colic cases–roughly 90%–can be considered medical rather than surgical. They either resolve on their own or with veterinary medical assistance

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Written by:

Karen Briggs is the author of six books, including the recently updated Understanding Equine Nutrition as well as Understanding The Pony, both published by Eclipse Press. She’s written a few thousand articles on subjects ranging from guttural pouch infections to how to compost your manure. She is also a Canadian certified riding coach, an equine nutritionist, and works in media relations for the harness racing industry. She lives with her band of off-the-track Thoroughbreds on a farm near Guelph, Ontario, and dabbles in eventing.

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