Post-Colic-Surgery Salmonellosis and Long-Term Prognosis
It seems there’s an upside and a downside to most horse health issues, including colic surgery. The good news: Clinical research says survival rates can be high with early referral and appropriate surgical treatment. The bad news: Colic surgery and postoperative care can be challenging, especially when complications arise.

One such postoperative complication is salmonellosis, a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella. The bacteria is present in the horse’s day-to-day environment and can even set up shop in his gastrointestinal tract without causing signs of disease. However, veterinarians have observed that horses with colic seem to be particularly predisposed to developing clinical signs associated with certain Salmonella strains.

And there’s more bad news when it comes to salmonellosis: “In-hospital mortality rates can be high, and salmonellosis can be expensive to treat,” said Louise L. Southwood, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, ACVECC.

But, in a recent study, Southwood and colleagues reported some good news about colic surgery patients that develop salmonellosis: The long-term prognosis is positive. They determined that horses developing salmonellosis following colic surgery that survived to hospital discharge did as well as horses that did not develop salmonellosis.

“Horses that recover don’t appear to have permanent injury to their intestine or abdomen,” Southwood said. “They don’t have ongoing problems with colic or diarrhea and are as likely to return to normal function as horses that are not diagnosed with salmonellosis after colic surgery.”

While salmonellosis remains a serious disease and can be costly to treat, Southwood encouraged owners to pursue treatment for affected horses when possible.

“It is definitely worth pursuing treatment of these horses because horses that recover from the colic surgery and the salmonellosis can do well,” she said.

The study, “Influence of Salmonella status on the long-term outcome of horses after colic surgery,” was published in Veterinary Surgery.