Having a horse or pony down with colic can be very worrying for a horse owner. Seeing the horse you love in so much pain, and not being sure if they’re going to pull through, makes for a very stressful time. So how do you best treat colic in horses to give them the best chance of making a full recovery?
Without a doubt, the first thing you need to do is call the vet. Most large animal vets have an after hours service so it doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, someone will be available. Vets know that horses don’t just get sick during business hours, so don’t hesitate, get the vet on the way as soon as possible.
It’s best if the vet can come to the property where your horse is. The last thing you want is having a colicky horse go down in the horse trailer on the way to the vets.
Some people might say to wait a bit before getting the vet, walk the horse a bit and see if it settles, but if you really care about the horse, it’s not the best thing to do. Yes, if you’re very lucky and the colic is minor enough, the horse might pull through without the vet, but more often than not with colic in horses the impaction will just get worse.
While you’re waiting for the vet, put a halter or headstall on the horse and move it to an area where it’s easy for the vet to attend to it. If the horse is trying to lie down & roll, get them up and keep them walking to help reduce the risk of a twisted bowel which tends to be fatal without surgery.
When the vet comes they’ll assess your horse, then probably give it some painkilling medication and sedative. In most cases they’ll also insert a tube into one of their nostrils and down to their stomach through which they’ll pour or pump several litres of paraffin oil. The exact amount they use will depend on the size of the horse.
Don’t worry if you see a small amount of blood coming from your horse’s nose after the tubing. This is quite common as it’s very easy to knock small blood vessels in the nose as the tube goes down.
Generally after the vet has been, the horse will be a lot more settled. Your vet will advise you as to whether or not they want you to keep walking the horse and what the next steps are.
For most cases of colic in horses, you’ll be able to let the horse go in a small yard where they can be easily observed & provided with water and a small amount of hay to nibble on if they want. You don’t want to feed them too much, as this can make things worse, but a small amount of food in their system will help to keep things moving.
The paraffin oil should come through your horse’s system within 24 hours or so, & hopefully with it, there should be the impaction. However, if you’re horse still doesn’t appear healthy a few hours after the vet has been, you should ring the vet and get an expert opinion – after all, they know what they’re doing as they see a lot of colic in horses. They may need to return and give the horse another dose of paraffin oil & painkillers.