Colic continues to be a serious health concern for horse owners and the equine industry. Studies indicate that approximately 10% of the horse population will suffer an episode of colic each year and that approximately 0.7% will die from colic. Based on the American Horse Council’s estimated population of 9.2 million horses in the United States, approximately 920,000 cases of colic occur each year, and more than 64,000 horses might die due to colic-related problems.
Colic not only causes horse owners heartache, but it creates a major economic loss to the horse industry. Given the American Horse Council’s estimation that the horse industry generates $102 billion toward the U.S. gross domestic product each year, the annual monetary loss from colic would exceed $700 million.
Colic cases are categorized as either 1) surgical or 2) medical. The leading cause of colic-associated deaths is intestinal strangulation, which causes death of the intestine and absorption of toxins that lead to fatal shock. Fortunately, the great majority of horses that suffer from colic do not require surgery, with most being treated successfully with medical care. Although medically treated cases of colic have a very low mortality rate, they represent the greatest burden of this disease syndrome. Colic of any origin is of great concern to owners and results not only in suffering for the horse, but also in costs associated with loss of use and veterinary care.
To decrease the incidence of colic and save the lives of horses requiring surgery, horses and groups of horses will need to be critically examined and research completed to find the reason for the various intestinal disorders that cause colic. This will require new knowledge about nutrition, pasture management, and stabling. In recent years, researchers have determined that high concentrate diets, changes in diet, increased stabling time, and other management practices can increase the