Colic: To Refer or Not to Refer

Does your colicking horse need to go to a clinic? Here’s how veterinarians determine the need for referral.

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Colic: To Refer or Not to Refer
While most cases do not require surgery, 7-10% of them do involve lesions that are only correctable through surgery. | Photo: iStock
Four out of every 100 horses colic each year, making it the most common equine emergency. While most cases do not require surgery, 7-10% of them do involve lesions that are only correctable through surgery.

But how does a veterinarian decide whether to put a horse under the knife? Diana M. Hassel, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, ACVECC, an associate professor of equine emergency surgery and critical care at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and colleagues recently reviewed methods veterinarians can use to evaluate whether a colicking horse should be referred for surgery.

“It is essential that the veterinarian is aware that an owner is willing to send their horse to a referral facility if needed right from the start,” Hassel said. “That way, if there are any concerns about the possibility of the horse needing surgery, there will not be delays in transport that could negatively affect prognosis.”

Next, Hassel and colleagues recommend veterinarians perform a thorough physical examination, including rectal palpation and passage of a nasogastric tube, to obtain valuable information that will help them determine if referral is needed

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Written by:

Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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