Veterinarians in the United States have a new tool to use in their diagnosis and treatment of colic, which gives them an early, 30-minute window in which to decide whether or not the colic might require more intensive medical therapy or surgery. The drug, Buscopan, is an anti-spasmodic (supresses spasms) and anti-cholinergic (blocks parasympathetic nerve signals) drug that has been available in Europe since the 1960s. Boehringer-Ingelheim (BI) Vetmedica received U.S. approval for the product in late May.

Bob Stenbom, DVM, manager of Equine Professional Services at Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, explained, “We’re offering the veterinarian more treatment options in the early stages of colic. It’s been considered an old product in other countries and a brand new product for us,” said Stenbom.

Many colics begin with spasms of the smooth muscle of the gut or intestinal wall, which can cause intense pain for the horse. Stenbom explained, “Rather than just covering up the pain of the spasm, we can go in there and relieve the spasm, but not for a long period of time. You don’t want to shut down all movement of the bowel in a colic situation, either.”

The medication, which has the chemical name N-butylscopolammonium bromide, stops intestinal spasms for about 30 minutes. This allows the treating veterinarian to re-evaluate and decide whether the colic was purely spasmodic and the problem has passed, or if the horse is still having problems and might require surgery.

“It’s a great prognostic tool because it doesn’t cover up the signs of a colic that’s deteriorating,” explained Stenbom, who added that in an early colic scenario where analgesics have been administered, the veterinarian often has to wait for the drugs to wear off before making decisions about more intensive medical therapy or surgery. “If you catch colic in the early stages, i