Feeding Horses After Colic Surgery

Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of managing a horse following colic surgery. Horse owners should follow basic feeding principles and tailor some elements toward the horse’s specific condition to create an optimal recovery environment.
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Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of managing a horse following colic surgery. Horse owners should follow basic feeding principles and tailor some elements toward the horse's specific condition to create an optimal recovery environment.

Protective practices to avoid another case of colic include allowing a horse access to small amounts of feed frequently and introducing feeding changes gradually.

Horses that have undergone colic surgery, especially for small intestinal disorders, might suffer from postoperative ileus, which is decreased motility of the intestine. These horses benefit from immediate feed withdrawal and gradual reintroduction to small frequent feedings of highly digestible grass, complete pellets, or alfalfa leaves once they no longer have reflux or when they show improved motility on ultrasound exam.

Horses with gastric ulcers should be fed forage continuously if possible, as constant access to pasture or other feed buffers the stomach acid with saliva

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Written by:

Jean-Yin Tan, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM-LAIM, is an equine internal medicine specialist and faculty member at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. She trained previously in New Jersey, Minnesota, and California and subsequently spent six years in private practice, including owning an equine specialty practice in New York State. Her interests include equine infectious disease and respiratory disease.

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