Colic in Horses

5 min read



Depending of the type of colic a horse has, there are different treatment options. Analgesics such as flunixin meglumine (banamine) are used in every colic case to help control the abdominal pain that can be quite severe. A nasogastric tube may also be used to relieve the amount of gas pressure in the gut, giving gas and fluids an avenue to travel away from the gut. IV fluids may be necessary if the horse is dehydrated or in shock.


If the horse is suffering from impaction colic, the goal of treatment is to remove the impaction. Usually, administration of mineral oil or another type of laxative is used to help dislodge the impaction. Usually the horse is held off-feed until he has defecated, which indicates that the impaction has passed.


If the veterinarian suspects there is a twist in a loop of bowel, surgery is required. The outcome of surgical colic cases is extremely dependent on how long the colic has been going on, the age and condition of the horse, as well as the location of the problem within the digestive tract. 


Living and Management


Usually, colic cases are easily resolved on the farm with minimal intervention. As the horse is being treated, access to food should be denied and supportive case should be implemented per your vet’s recommendations. After recovery, return your horse to work slowly and watch carefully for any reoccurring signs of abdominal pain.




Occasionally, a horse will colic for no apparent reason. In such a case, the best prevention is to know your horse’s habits so that you may prevent a colic episode in the future. Other preventative aspects include:


  • Always make sure your horse has plenty of access to fresh, clean water. In the winter, horses are more susceptible to impaction colic, as they do not like to drink ice cold water, or the water in the trough was frozen so the horse has no access to it. In cold climates, regularly check to make sure there is no ice buildup in the water buckets, or install water heaters.
  • Ensure your horse has enough access to roughage in his diet, such as pasture or hay. This part of a horse’s natural diet provides the bulk needed for proper gut motility.
  • Make sure your horse has regular dental check-ups to ensure there are no sharp points or missing teeth that prevent him from grinding his food properly.
  • In the spring, slowly introduce your horse to lush pasture. Do not let him out to graze full time on new spring grass all at once.