If you have read some of my previous posts you would know that I find gut health very important. For my own health I am passionate about maintaining a healthy lifestyle to ensure I have a happy GUT! Eating well and listening to what my body likes and dislikes allows me to know the warning signs for when my stomach may be upset and not feeling the best. After paying attention to my body for a few years now I can now pick what it is that has caused the upset. We are lucky that we have the ability to manipulate what we consume and put into our bodies. Horses however aren't so lucky.
I bet all the horse people out there have at some point experienced COLIC, with a horse of their own or been involved with a case of colic. So what is COLIC? Basically it is abdominal pain. Horses can't talk so they show us that they are in pain by visual symptoms such as rolling constantly, pawing the ground or continually looking around at their flank area. If symptoms go unnoticed a simple pain can potentially turn life threatening. Statistics have shown that colic is one of the biggest causes of horse deaths.
Other symptoms include:
- Kicking or biting abdomen
- Stretching out as if to urinate
- Sitting like a dog
- Head lowered
- Minimal bowel movements
- Increased respiration
- Flared Nostrils
The digestive tract a horse is a complex system that is designed to utilise and break down plant based material for energy and nutrients.
Below is a diagram of the digestive system of a horse.
Cellulose is a big component in grass that can be very hard to digest properly. Lucky for horses, they have been designed to be able breakdown the cellulose and utilise the feed for energy, vitamins and minerals. A horse ideally should be grazing constantly for good gut health. This is to make sure the body has enough energy as well as enough fiber to reduce acid levels in the stomach and prevent ulcers. There are loads of bacteria involved in a horse's digestive system that are needed for breaking up the cellulose. Without even realising we can be one of the causes of colic. Our management practices of horses today have reduced their natural behaviour, like in the wild. Having them in stables and small yards with minimal grass reduces grazing time for the horse and also increases the risk of them consuming things like sand and abnormal feeds. Colic can be caused from the gut bacteria not being able to digest things like sand.
Colic can be classed into four different categories:
2. Simple obstruction or blockage
3. Obstruction or blockage with partial or complete shut-off of blood supply
4. Enteritis/colitis or inflammation of the bowel wall
So how do we know how serious the colic is?
A vet should be called immediately as they can give the appropriate care necessary for the individual case. It is important to continuously walk the horse around to prevent rolling and twisting their bowels.
The Center for Equine Health listed these important ways of preventing colic! Have a read through and try and implement as many as possible!
If us horse owners become aware of ways to prevent colic then the health of horses can improve and lets face it NO ONE wants to loose their most prized and loved possession to a painful and preventable sickness! It is no fun when we have a stomach ache but I can guarantee you that horses do not enjoy it either, especially when they don't have the tools to fix the issue themselves. If you are ever worries about colic then contact your local vet IMMEDIATELY!