"When you hear hoofbeats think of horses, not zebras."- unknown

Equine Health Topics



Colic is a broad term that refers to abdominal pain. There are many different causes of colic pain, many of which involve the gastrointestinal tract. Other organs such as the liver and kidneys can be involved. Colic can vary in severity from acute, transient gas pain to life threatening bowel torsions. The most common cause of colic in horses in the Indian Wells Valley is sand impaction. Enteroliths, stones that form inside the intestinal tract, are seen occasionally and are most common in the desert areas of the United States. Dehydration, changes in feed, abdominal masses, and damage to the intestinal wall from internal parasites are other causes of colic.

Clinical Signs

Signs of colic vary with the type of colic, the pain level and duration, and the pain tolerance of the horse. Signs can include any of the following:

With horses lack of appetite warrants an immediate call to a veterinarian. There is a reason that the phrase, Eats like a horse!, describes a healthy horse.



Medical treatment for colic includes an initial examination and evaluation. Pain killers and/or sedatives are often given. When an impaction is determined or suspected mineral oil is given via nasogastric tube. Horses with uncontrollable or prolonged pain or poor response to pain killers may warrant transport to a referral clinic for further evaluation, hospitalization and possible surgery. Fortunately most colics respond to medical treatment within a few hours.


Surgical treatment of colic is done at referral equine hospitals with facilities for major abdominal surgery. The prognosis for survival depends on the type of colic and the condition of the horse at presentation at the referral facility. For Indian Wells Valley horses that may require surgery we recommend referral early for a refractive case as it is at least a 3 hour drive to a facility.


Aids in prevention of colic include:

First Aid

Most common emergencies

Colic and lacerations are the most common emergencies seen at the High Sierra Veterinary Clinic.

Colic - See preceding section

Prior to calling the veterinarian make sure the bleeding is under control. If possible wrap the wound, or apply direct pressure with gauze or a clean cloth. If the horse allows you can clean the wound with a dilute betadine scrub. For wounds that may require sutures do not use an oil based wound dressing. Water based wound dressings, such as furazolidone, help to keep the wound edges moist and viable until the wound can be evaluated by a veterinarian.

First Aid Kit

Recommended items for your equine first aid kit include:

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