Symptoms of Horse Colic in Arab, AL

There are various symptoms of horse colic that you should be aware of if you own or take care of a horse. You need to take immediate action when you see that signs may be pointing to colic in the horse.

Symptoms of colic in the horse can range from depression to the inability to defecate. Colic is very painful for the horse, and it can cause them extreme stress and anxiety.

Colic is a condition that could kill your horse if it is too severe to treat. Acting quickly will not only keep your horse from experiencing extreme discomfort, but it could also potentially save their life. Read below to discover the symptoms of colic and how to treat and prevent it. If you have any questions, call Arab Veterinary Hospital at (256) 586-3183.

horse colic in arab, al

What is Horse Colic?

Colic refers to abdominal pain in horses. Unfortunately, it is severe, and it can even be life-threatening. Horses have a complicated digestive system. Different horses will demonstrate various symptoms based on the cause of the underlying issue.

Gas colic in horses starts with an unusual amount of gas in the intestine. The gas-filled intestine inhibits the gas from moving down any further. The intestine is excessively stretched. This stretching stimulates the vulnerable nerve endings that reside within the intestinal wall, resulting in pain.

The horse will appear bloated. This bloating causes pain. Fecal material becomes hard and uneasy to pass due to dehydration. Large amounts of digesta become impacted, most commonly in the large intestine of the horse.

Pain develops because of all the stress on the ligamentous part of the intestine to the body wall. When this occurs, intestinal displacement can be the result. There is a restriction of the bloodstream to the tissues. This limitation causes a shortage of oxygen, which results from the twisting of the intestine.

Inflammation develops, which could include the entire intestinal wall or the covering of the intestine. There is a reduction of the threshold for painful stimuli. Colic is typically associated with overeating or eating incorrectly. 

Types of Horse Colic

Horse colic can refer to several underlying conditions. The horse’s complex body design makes the horse susceptible to this illness. Below are the different types of colic seen in horses:

Gas colic

This occurs when there is an excess accumulation of gas inside the horse’s intestines. This situation will make the horse very flatulent.

Spasmodic colic

This is the outcome of intestinal cramps or spasms. This kind of colic can also present with intestinal hypermotility.

Impaction colic

Partially digested food collects within the large intestine of the horse and stops moving. The result is blockage or impaction. The horse develops an inability to defecate.

Sand colic

This occurs with horses who live in sandy areas. It could also be found in horses who are fed from the sandy ground. Fine particle sand accrues, and the outcome is sand colic.

Twisted gut

A portion of the intestine twists itself or inverts itself.  This condition is severe and is often life-threatening.

Displacement/Entrapment colic

This results from an area of the intestine moving from its usual location to somewhere different. This condition is not too common. However, displacements and entrapments are dangerous because they stretch the blood supply to the area of the intestine, and it can become crushed or constricted.

Strangulation colic

It is uncommon but extremely serious. It occurs when the blood source to the area of the intestine is strangulated. This strangling constrains the blood supply and results in the speedy death of the intestine wall. However, the great news is that there is a high recovery rate with this type of colic.

Gastric distention/feed colic

This is when the animal consumes food very quickly. The digestive tract gets out of balance, and sometimes the stomach can rupture, which is fatal.


These are intestinal stones caused by mineral deposits that develop around some ingested foreign material, such as gravel, and can obstruct the horse’s intestine. This type of colic necessitates surgery. 

Some types of colic are seen more frequently than others. Colic should be taken seriously, and if a horse is suffering from colic, they will need the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Horse Colic?

Colic symptoms can change as the condition progresses. Monitoring the illness helps the veterinarian to determine what kind of treatment the horse needs. Below are several of the more common signs of colic in horses:

  • Poor appetite
  • No interest in drinking
  • Depression
  • Fast respiratory rate
  • Inability to defecate
  • Stretching their body as if to urinate
  • Rolling on the ground
  • Patchy sweating across the body
  • Excessive sweating
  • Abrasions on the head or legs
  • Extreme pain
  • Lying on back
  • Gums can be pale, dark red, or purple
  • Looking at their flank
  • Pawing at the ground

There are many different symptoms of colic in horses. Watch the horse’s behavior, so you can ascertain what kinds of symptoms your particular horse is experiencing.

How do you Treat Colic in Horses?

A diagnosis can be made after a veterinarian’s thorough examination. It must be determined which part of the intestinal tract is involved. A cause must also be identified. The physical examination should address the cardiopulmonary and GI systems.

Each situation is unique and may involve different treatments depending on the underlying condition. Below are possible treatments for colic in the horse:

  • Surgical treatment (depending upon the severity)
  • Pain medications such as NSAID’s
  • Fluid therapy
  • Protection against enteric bacteria
  • Intestinal lubricants and laxatives
  • Larvicidal deworming

Horses who present with colic should be seen by the veterinarian immediately.  Most horses who have colic can be treated with medication, but if the condition is too severe, the horse will need surgical intervention.

Colic Prevention

Colic prevention (see video) is essential to keep your horse happy and healthy. There are specific ways to safeguard your horse from getting colic:

1.       Access to freshwater – Provide clean, fresh water for your horse

2.       Enough salt – Helps to increase water consumption

3.       Movement – Exercise promotes the transfer of food through the gastrointestinal tract

4.       Prevent sand ingestion – Stop sand from collecting in the digestive system

5.       Make feeding changes gradually but not often – Can reduce the chance of colic

6.       Feed quality food – Avoid high grain diets and hay with mold

7.       Avoid pelleted feeds – Decreases risk of colic

8.       Minimize stress and anxiety – Reducing stress supports overall gut health

9.       Take care of dental problems – Poorly chewed food can result in diminished functioning of the digestive tract

10.   Deworm your horse – Internal parasites can contribute to the advancement of colic

11.   Check to see if supplementation is appropriate – Try probiotics and digestive enzymes for gut health

If you follow the guidelines above, you may be able to spare your horse from suffering from colic. Supporting your horse’s gut health will promote overall health and wellness.


Horses who are suffering from colic will present with pain in their abdominal area for various reasons. The term colic could refer to many different types of pain in the gastrointestinal area. Colic is very painful and stressful for the horse.

Your horse could have a plethora of symptoms, and in severe cases, surgery is required. A vet needs to examine the animal to make a specific diagnosis. Preventative actions will keep your horse healthy and grateful in the long run. Call us today at (256) 586-3183.