Beautiful HorseThe number one public enemy and killer of horses is colic. Most people think they know what colic is, but there are many misconceptions surrounding this condition.

“Colic is not a disease, but a broad term for pain in the abdominal area,” said Idaho Equine Veterinarian Liz Scott. “If colic is treated right away it is less expensive and horses can recover more quickly.”

Colic can become life threatening very rapidly. Recognizing the signs and getting the horse to a veterinarian is the best course of action. Signs to watch for in horses include: not eating, pawing, rolling, lying down, and kicking at their belly.

“Colic can be caused by poor hay, weeds in the hay, cheat grass and mold,” explained Scott, DVM. “If there is a change in feed, it should be done gradually. Slowly decrease the hay you’re currently feeding and slowly bring in the new hay.”

How to Prevent Colic –Tips from the American Association of Equine Practitioners

  • Establish a daily feeding and exercise routine. Feed a high-quality diet comprised primarily of roughage.
  • Avoid feeding excessive grain and energy-dense supplements.
  • Divide daily concentrate rations into two or more smaller feedings rather than one large one to avoid overloading the horse’s digestive tract. Hay is best fed free-choice.
  • Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your equine veterinarian.
  • Provide exercise on a daily basis. Change any exercise routines gradually.
  • Provide fresh, clean water at all times. The exception is when a horse is excessively hot, and then it should be given small sips of luke-warm water until it has recovered.
  • Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils. Check hay, bedding and pasture for potentially toxic substances.
  • Reduce stress—Horses experiencing changes in environment or workloads are at high risk of intestinal problems.

For more information about colic prevention and treatment, ask your equine veterinarian for the “Colic” brochure, provided by the American Association of Equine Practitioners in partnership with Educational Partner Bayer Animal Health.  Additional colic information is available by visiting the AAEP’s horse health Website:

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