‘Colic’ - What does it mean?
'Colic' is a word that horrifies horse owners and probably the biggest killer of horses here in Spain - but what does this word mean?
"It really means "abdominal pain", but it does not indicate the cause of the pain. The clinical signs of colic are a little bit variable depending on the degree of pain the animal is experiencing, but in general are: pawing, stretching, frequent attempts to urinate, flank watching, biting/nipping the stomach, repeated flehmen response, repeated lying down and rising, rolling, loss of appetite and decreased fecal output. Not every horse will display all these signs nor are they indicative of a specific cause" Dorothea.
One of the biggest challenges of keeping horses here, in this part of Spain, is the fact that there is no grass horses cannot be turned out to graze. So therefore they are completely dependent upon what they are fed by their owners, this should be three times a day. As horses are trickle feeders, this means they need a continuous intake of fibre passing through their intestines in which lives good bacteria which breaks the food down into the nutrients that they need. Amazingly their intestines are approximately 30 metres in length; this is equivalent to a netball court. Added to the fact that horses cannot throw up, everything has to come out their back end, and so if there is a blockage you can only image how much of a huge problem this can be and excruciatingly painful for the horse.
Here at the Centre many of the horses come to us severely mal-nutritional, such as our lovely Musico who's Colic led to his internally problems for the rest of his life.
Musico had being fed poor quality feed while being used for riding lessons this which compounded his state of poor health. He was the strangest looking big grey horse you could ever imagine. He had a saggy back and great big feet that splayed out, he also had a long Roman nose and small bright button like eyes. With only a few wisps of hair for his mane, which I used to keep short so he didn't look like an old balding man. But we loved him.
As he gained weight and his strength came back, he really came into his own, he thought he was a very important horse and took charge of our Cordobessa. When the rescue horses started to come he always looked down his long Roman nose at them thinking he was much superior and wouldn't have anything to do with any of them and wouldn't let Cordobessa either.
Throughout the seven years he lived with us he had an assortment of continuous health issues, including a heart murmur, tick fever and back problems, but his main problem was Colic related. If Dorothea our equine vet wasn't able to help him he would have to be rushed to the Alicante horse hospital, this usually happened at least twice a year. He actually enjoyed staying in the hospital because of all the attention the vets and nurses gave him, they all knew him and upon his arrival they would get out his huge medical file which was bigger than any of their other patients files. He even managed to get in there one year for Christmas. Despite ultra sound and lots of different tests the vets could never actually work out what was causing his Colic. They knew it was some type of blockage in a certain part of his intestines, but without cutting him open they were not able to work out his exact problem.
Sadly early this year his old problem flared up again and he was took to the hospital, despite trying all day to free the blockage, they called us in the evening to say that they had tried everything but this time they couldn't help him. The only option left was to cut him open but they advised against this, so we all agreed to put him to sleep as we would not have him suffer. The vet Nacho A. Sebastián at the Centro Policlínico Veterinario Raspeig hospital sent us this lovely message, explaining how they found that Musico had a chronic displacement of the large colon that could explain all the colic's that he has had during all those years.
"Sadly his past life had finally caught up with him, his ill treatment from years ago had caused the damage inside that unfortunately we couldn't see or this time save" Nacho A. Sebastián.
We do everything we can to keep every horse that comes to live with us well and healthy. When we lose one of them it is heart-breaking, however this only strengthens our determination to continue and help save the others out there that also need our help.
"If you suspect that your horse could have colic, there are a few things you can do while you wait for the vet. First of all, remove all the food from the horse. After that, check when it did its last defecation and what it looked like, and when the last urination had been. If the horse is displaying severe signs of pain like rolling, try to walk with it. Do not lounge the horse any faster than walking.
Every horse owner should question him or herself what they would do if their horse gets colic. In the emergency situation there is not much time to decide if you are willing or able to bring your horse to surgery or not. Considering that most times there is no exact diagnosis at the time this decision needs to be taken, no exact prognosis of the surgery can be given. It's a thought that you should at least consider while you have a cool head before you (hopefully never) face the real problem". Dorothea
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