Learn to Manage your Horse’s Health and Wellbeing
Managing the health and wellbeing of horses requires knowledge, experience and the right attitude or mindset toward a horse.
The more you learn about horse care, the better prepared you will be to deal with irregularities in a horses health.
Knowing about illnesses will make you better prepared, and more likely to respond in a timely manner to signs of ill health.
There are many different types of illness that can affect horses. Some are more serious than others.
Consider Equine Colic?
Colic is a description of any condition causing abdominal pain. There are many causes of colic and it may be difficult to diagnose. Possible causes of abdominal pain include:
- gut problems (abnormal motility, blood supply or stretching)
- hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
- bladder infection (straining to urinate)
- muscle disease (rhabdomyolysis) in horses in training
- iliac thrombosis (blood clot in vessels supplying hind limbs)
- pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura – lining of the thoracic cavity)
- complications of castration (e.g. inflammation of spermatic cord)
– first stage labour
– post foaling involution of the uterus
Clinical signs of colic
Early signs of colic include reduced appetite, reduced faeces production, depression and restlessness. As the pain increases the horse will start to sweat, attempt to roll and develop muscle tremors. In severe cases the horse will roll repeatedly, kick at its belly and may show demented behaviour such as staggering about or head pressing. In all cases of suspected colic it is advisable to call the vet.
It is best to keep the horse walking around if possible to prevent it from rolling. Do not feed or water the horses or give it any drenches until it has been examined by the vet as this could enter its lungs.
Treatment of colic
If the cause of the colic is diagnosed as requiring surgery, the horse should be operated on as soon as possible. If this is not possible for any reason, the horse may have to be humanely destroyed.
Many types of colic will respond to non-surgical treatment. These may include pain killers and sedatives, lubrication of the gut for example with liquid paraffin which may help to soften and break up any mass that is causing a blockage in the gut. Other treatments include anti-fermentive drugs such as oil of turpentine which may reduce gas production. Worming treatments may help if the colic is due a heavy burden of endoparasites.
Prevention of colic
Colic cannot be prevented entirely but the risk of some causes occurring can be very significantly reduced by the following:
- regular adequate worming
- regular exercise: necessary for normal gut function
- regular attention to teeth: to avoid improper chewing which can lead to undigested food causing impactions
- change rations slowly (over 2 weeks): to allow gradual adaptation of gut flora
- feed regularly with non-mouldy feed: rolled oats should run through hands and not stick together
- avoid indigestible roughage: old woody hay
- ensure ad-lib water: need to lubricate food to avoid impactions
- exercise and colic: do not work horse within an hour of feeding or feed immediately after strenuous work
- know your horse: to be able to recognise abnormal behaviour promptly
- seek professional advice: sooner rather than later
- add salt to the horse’s daily ration