Horse Colic: A Real Emergency

Posted on: 24 July 2016

The signs of horse colic can put fear into any horse owner. They know all too well that colic is a serious problem that can lead to death on some occasions. Colic takes many forms, but one of the most serious may be impaction colic, the blockage of a horse's intestines by severe constipation or foreign objects. As a horse owner, you need to recognize the signs and understand the treatment of this condition so you can get help quickly for your horse.


A horse with impaction colic will be disinterested in food. If you walk up to offer them grain or a treat, they will not eat it, behavior that a horse almost never exhibits. They may lie down and get up repeatedly in an attempt to ease their discomfort. They may paw the ground as well. Although horses that just don't feel well can also display this behavior, a horse with an impaction will also not defecate as usual.It will either not produce manure at all or only produce a small amount. If your horse has this issue, you need to contact a vet immediately.


Impaction colic can occur when your horse becomes dehydrated. Without the enough water, the digestion slows down, making it more likely that food will become lodged in the narrow parts of the horse's large intestine. Eating stimulates the passage of food, so if your horse does not eat for some reason, be it medical or lack of forage, they are more likely to develop this condition. In addition, a horse that eats foreign objects such as twine or hair can develop an impaction. Keeping the pasture and paddock free of objects your horse can swallow can help keep your mount safe.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When your vet arrives, they may use several methods to diagnose the issue. These methods include rectal palpation and the use of a mobile ultrasound unit. These methods allow the vet to locate the blockage and assess whether on-site treatment is appropriate. Once they diagnose this issue, treatment may include medications administered through a stomach tube. In some impaction cases, your horse may be referred for surgery at a clinic, a frightening occurrence for a loving horse owner. However, this condition must be resolved quickly, or it becomes life-threatening.

As a horse owner, you have probably had some experience with minor colic. Impaction colic is one of the worst types that your animal can suffer. If you suspect impaction, call your vet immediately. You should not wait to see if it resolves itself. Your vet will be able to determine if surgery is necessary. The sooner your horse is diagnosed, the more likely it is to survive. For more information, consider contacting a veterinarian like those at the Seattle Emergency Veterinary Hospital.