The Equine Digestive Tract and How it Relates to Colic

Certain parts of the horse’s digestive tract are associated with higher risks of developing colic.

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According to a recent poll, colic is many horse owners’ most concerning equine emergency–and rightly so. This common ailment can be deadly or relatively easy to treat; it can clear up with an analgesic injection or it can require surgery to fix. And to boot, colic isn’t picky, affecting horses of all ages, breeds, and sizes.

The good news is veterinarians and researchers have been delving deeper into understanding colic and how it relates to a horse’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. James N. Moore, DVM, PhD, recently presented on advances in understanding equine GI anatomy and the relationship it has with different types of colic at the American Association of Equine Practitioners Focus on Colic Meeting, held July 24-26 in Indianapolis, Ind.

“The term ‘colic’ simply means abdominal pain, but is used to describe a variety of conditions that cause the horse to exhibit clinical signs that we associate with abdominal pain,” Moore began. “In order to make a diagnosis and initiate the appropriate treatment, veterinarians must understand the most clinically relevant aspects of the anatomy of the horse’s gastrointestinal tract

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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