Colic (equine disease)

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As colic in horses all be signs of disease in the area of the stomach or intestine called. Colic is not so much the disease itself, but rather its occurrence indicates a malfunction of the digestive tract, which can have many causes.


The horse is restless, scratches, pleads, and turns its head back or hits its stomach . It lies down again and again, possibly trying to wallow. If the pain is more severe , the restlessness is increased, the horse sometimes remains on its back for some time. The eyes are wide open, the breath gulps. It can sweats come, the oral mucosa is sometimes dry. When it comes to circulatory failure , cold sweats break out and the surface of the skin becomes cool. Generally, horses with colic refuse to eat food and water. The horse is often reared , that is, the muscles around the abdomen are cramped and pull themselves upwards.

It should be noted that not every horse shows the same signs. Some of the symptoms already described can indicate colic. If in doubt, a veterinarian should be consulted quickly , as only he can make a reliable diagnosis of the cause and take appropriate countermeasures. Untreated colic can quickly lead to circulatory failure and consequently death.


Common cause of equine colic is a closure of the intestine, where most of the colon ( Colon ) is affected. The blockage can be caused, for example, by insufficiently digested food, which sticks in the intestine and stops the transport of the food pulp ( intestinal obstruction or ileus). It is also possible for the intestine to become tangled, displaced or trapped, in which case the intestine is constricted. So-called stress colic occurs quite often when the horse is exposed to greater psychological stress, such as on long transports or at horse shows . The abdominal muscles cramp and thus disrupt digestion (→ convulsive colic ). Weather-related colic usually occurs in spring or when the weather changes. The horse's circulation deteriorates, the intestines stop working.

Colic is favored by a lack of movement of the horse and parasite infestation of the intestines.


An antispasmodic drug is used to try to relax the abdomen. By administering oil through a tube into the stomach, an attempt can also be made to make the bowel flow again. The veterinarian can reach into the colon to a certain depth rectally , but this process does not serve to clear the rectum, but is of crucial importance for the diagnosis. Depending on the size of the horse, many other parts of the intestine can be felt through the intestinal wall. A pain reliever is often given to relieve the pain. With colic caused by the weather or circulatory system, circulatory stabilizing drugs such as high-dose hawthorn help .

Until the veterinarian arrives, the horse should be walked. Lying down of the horse should be avoided in the case of slight colic in favor of further movement, but in the case of severe colic and the resulting impending collapse of the circulatory system, it is more advisable to allow the horse to lay down in order to prevent further stress on the circulatory system. In certain cases, by rolling the horse, an attempt can be made to reverse a twisting or displacement of the intestine.

The last remedy before a more extensive operation is the intestinal puncture (percutaneous intestinal puncture ), as it has been used by nomadic peoples since the 6th century, with instruments such as trocar , cannula and earlier blood-letting arrows with cannula (see also rumen stitch ).

In some cases, conservative (i.e. non-surgical) care is not sufficient, and the intestines must be checked and restored to normal in a colic operation on the open abdomen. If a section of the intestine has already died, this part must be removed.


  • Olof Dietz: Handbook horse practice. 3rd completely revised edition, Enke Verlag, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-8304-1028-X .
  • Frank GR Taylor, Mark H. Hillyer: Clinical Diagnostics in Equine Practice. 2nd edition, Schlütersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Hanover 2004, ISBN 3-87706-574-0 .

Individual evidence

  1. Lothar Ariess: The colic of the horse and its treatment; edited for veterinarians and students of veterinary medicine, as well as for the interested military, ̲ sports and business circles . 1928 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).
  2. Martin Kirschner: General and Special Surgical Operations. Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-642-47558-0 , p. 209 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  3. ^ Richard Kinseher: The bow in culture, music and medicine, as a tool and weapon. BoD - Books on Demand, 2003, ISBN 978-3-831-14109-8 , p. 154 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  4. Eduard Vogel: Hering's theory of operations for veterinarians Schickhardt & Ebner, 1885
  5. ^ Hugo Adolf Bernatzik: America . Herkul, 1954.