Study explores risk factors of colic

A new study reveals that horses with colic that originates in the small intestine have a much lower survival rate.

A recent retrospective study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal determined that a horse’s ability to survive colic may depend largely on which intestine the condition originates in. Among horses with colic that originated in the large intestine, 74% survived, compared to only 36% of horses with disease in the small intestine.

The study, conducted at the Veterinary Hospital in Charlottetown, PEI, looked at medical records from 575 horses (Standardbreds, Quarterhorses, Warmbloods, and Thoroughbreds) from 2000 to 2015. Half the horses in the study were mares, and the remainder were geldings and stallions.

The most common diagnosis in the study was impaction colic (18% of cases), followed by twisting and abnormal location of the large colon. Less than one-quarter of cases had no clear diagnosis. This latter group of horses were much more likely to survive their bout of colic (83%).

Other findings:

  • Horses with severe clinical signs of colic were less likely to survive, emphasizing the importance of arranging a thorough veterinary examination as soon as a horse presents signs.
  • Older horses and those displaying colic for more than 12 hours were less likely to survive.
  • Eighteen horses with stomach ulcers presented with signs of colic.


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