Study: Horses With Sand Colic Have ‘Excellent’ Prognosis

Both medical and surgical management resulted in more than 94% of treated horses surviving to discharge from one hospital, researchers found.

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Study: Horses With Sand Colic Have
Horses residing in areas with sandy soil can consume sand inadvertently while grazing or eating off the ground. | Photo: iStock
There usually isn’t much good news when it comes to colic. But, one researcher has reported that when it comes to sand colic, the news about prognoses is positive. Isabelle Kilcoyne, MVB, Dipl. ACVS, of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, said this condition generally has an excellent prognosis regardless of whether horses receive medical or surgical treatment, during a presentation at the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 17-21, in San Antonio, Texas.

Sand accumulation in the large colon occurs relatively frequently in regions with naturally sandy soils, including California, Texas, and Florida. Affected horses, who consume sand inadvertently while grazing or eating off the ground, can develop gastrointestinal tract obstructions, intestinal tract lining irritation, altered gut motility, weight loss, diarrhea, and overt colic.

If a practitioner suspects sand colic, Kilcoyne recommended that, in addition to a standard colic workup, he or she take radiographs to help confirm sand in the gut and quantify how much has accumulated. This is because listening to the abdomen’s oceanlike sounds using a stethoscope (a traditional method of diagnosing sand accumulation) and measuring fecal sedimentation are only effective in approximately 20% of cases, she cautioned.

With a positive diagnosis, the veterinarian can discuss treatment options—either medical or surgical—with the owner. Kilcoyne said one of the key factors veterinarians should consider when selecting their approach is how much gas has built up in the abdomen, based on radiographs and transrectal palpation

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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