Despite improvements in treatment of colic in the last 20 years it is still the biggest killer of adult horses! It is therefore no wonder that owners are concerned when a horse gets colic. Troytown Hospital is a major centre for referral of horses with colic (acute abdominal emergencies) and we treat over 300 colic cases each year.
Only approximately 1 horse in every 20 cases of colic actually requires surgery. Most horses with colic respond to medical treatment with pain-killers, anti-inflammatories and drugs which reduce the spasm of the intestines which is associated with the colic. It is important that those horses that are suffering from a more severe type of colic are identified as soon as possible. Early surgical intervention will give these horses the best possible chance of survival.
Troytown Hospital uses the best possible diagnostic tests to assess a horse with colic in order to determine if surgery is necessary. Medical treatment may be an option in some instances and this will be discussed in each individual circumstance.
It is reassuring to know that due to advances in medical and surgical treatment over the last decades the chances of a horse undergoing a full recovery following colic surgery is now good. Our retrospective study showed that 3 of 4 horses that underwent colic surgery survived to lead normal productive lives.
Prevention of colic is the main aim of horse managers and it is important to realise that it is going to be impossible to totally eradicate colic. However, good management should involve minimizing dietary changes and ensuring any changes are introduced in a gradual manner. Regular worming schedules are important, with particular attention being paid to treatment of tapeworms in the autumn, since tapeworms have been shown to be an important and until recently overlooked cause of colic.