What is colic?  Basically it means that your horse has a “belly ache.”  The abdominal pain can be arising from any organ found in the abdomen, not just the GI tract and can range from mild pain to severe life threatening disease.

Signs of colic can range from mild to severe.   Common signs to look for:

  • Poor appetite
  • Depression
  • Inappropriate sweating
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Repeatedly watching the flank
  • Pawing
  • Kicking or biting at the belly
  • Wanting to lie down and/or roll
  • Stretching out
  • Posturing as if to urinate, but not urinating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Flared nostrils

What to do if you think your horse is colicky:

  • Take your horse’s temperature and heart rate.  It is a good idea to practice this now – before your horse is having a problem.  Check out our page on learning how to take your horse’s vital signs for tips.
  • Call your veterinarian.
  • Remove all food, but do allow access to water.
  • Allow your horse to rest unless he is continually rolling and is a danger to himself.  If this is the case then walking him will keep him from injury and is a good idea.

Even if you are unsure if a veterinarian needs to see your horse, please call.  We will be happy to answer your questions, and, if appropriate, discuss medicating your horse.  This way, we are involved early in the disease process, preventing delayed or inappropriate treatment that could lead to an undesirable outcome.  This also puts us on alert, in the instance that the problem does not resolve we are ready to help as soon as possible.

Treat every incident of colic as potentially serious, as mild GI upsets and a colic that requires surgery will often be indistinguishable early in the disease process.


Learn to take your horse’s vital signs (temperature, heart rate, and respiration) before an emergency arises!


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