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Symptoms and prevention tips for winter colic

November 22, 2023

Colic has many different types, causes and outcomes, and is the leading cause of premature equine death. It’s not always preventable, however, you can protect your horse from certain situations that predispose them to colic, such as cold weather.

What is winter colic?

Winter colic, a common condition associated with the colder months, is an impaction-colic. The horse’s intestine gets blocked with feedstuff and other material, usually from a lack of fresh water and moisture-rich fresh grass. This can be due to the horse being stabled more during the winter, and having less access to water.

Dehydration impedes gut movement, which can result in a blockage. Feed and gas build up behind the blockage, and cause distention of the horse’s intestine and associated pain. Impactions can occur anywhere throughout the intestine, however, the pelvic flexure portion of the large intestine is one of the more common sites due to the decreased diameter at this point.

Symptoms of winter colic:

Diagnosing, treating and avoiding winter colic

Thankfully, winter colic is typically easy to diagnose, mostly during rectal palpations. Treatment normally includes painkillers, possibly a sedative, along with hydration to get things moving again. If the impaction is more severe, your horse may need to be hospitalised so that intravenous fluids can be administered.

Most horses tend to recover quickly from winter colic, but of course, it’s much better for the horse if this condition can be avoided. Garston Vets’ equine vets have this advice:

Call us on the number above if you’re concerned about your horse’s health this winter.


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