What do I need to tell the Veterinarian if I think my horse has colic?


Colic is something that all horse owners and grooms need to be vigilant about.  It can happen at any time, for any number of reasons, and can range from very mild to downright violent.  Knowing what to look for, and then acting on that information, can save your horse’s life.  


You also need a reliable thermometer. 


So let’s say that you find your horse one day and he’s just not himself.  He’s not acting normally, and he is fidgety and looks a bit bloated.  Or, you find him and he’s stressed, kicking at his belly, and rolling on the ground.  Or, he’s somewhere in the middle.  


I can’t stress these two things enough - call your Veterinarian, and don’t give your horse any drugs until you have talked to your Veterinarian.  Giving medications can complicate the diagnostic process, so a phone call at the very least is warranted before you give a medication.   Call your Vet, even if it’s after hours.  The answering service will page a Veterinarian for you. 



Sometimes a roll is just a roll...until it's not...


When you are talking to your Veterinarian, you need to be able to give him the following information: 


Vital signs 

Know your horse's TPR - what the values are normally so that you can compare.

  • Temperature
  • Pulse
  • Respiration
  • Capillary refill time


You also can help your Veterinarian get a clear picture with the following information -


  • Eating habits over the last few hours (normal, didn’t eat)
  • Drinking habits over the last few hours (less, more, the same)
  • Gut sounds in each quadrant (none, normal, excessive)
  • Overall attitude
  • Any strange postures
  • Recent manure description (normal, diarrhea, extra dry)
Become a master of reading horse manure.  For what is "normal", read this. 
  • Any recent feed changes (even a new batch of hay of the same type)
  • Are the hooves hot? (Laminitis often mimics colic due to the pain level involved)
  • Has he had any changes in his level of exercise?
  • When was his last fecal count and/or deworming?


Practice listening, so you know what's normal and what's not. 


The causes of colic are numerous.  The treatments for your horse’s signs and symptoms can vary widely from your friend’s horse that had a colic episode last year.  Only your Veterinarian can determine a possible cause and the best course of action for your horse - it’s your job to give your Veterinarian as much information about your horse horse as you can. 


What experiences have you had??