Winter Weather Boosts Risk of Colic in Horses: Part 1

  • January 11, 2017
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  • By Kristin Danley-Greiner for The Fence Post

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care

Horses don’t need much—food, water, a little protection from the elements. Wild horses can get by on old grass and snow all winter, without any help from automatic waterers or heated barns.

But there’s a difference between surviving and thriving, and when you’ve invested heavily–both financially and emotionally–in an animal, surviving just isn’t good enough.

Heading into winter, consider the changes that happen in your horse’s life.

They may trade their days grazing green grass for standing at a bale feeder. They may swap their refreshingly cool water for ice water and snow.

These changes can contribute to an uptick in colic veterinarians have observed once cold weather hits.

Though colic is a catch-all term for a bellyache in a horse, in the winter it’s most commonly caused by impaction. Contributing factors to winter colic include drier feed, less water and less exercise.

Joe Stricklin, DVM, is a vet in Greeley, Colorado. He’s practiced for 36 years and has noticed another factor that seems to bring on bouts of colic—barometic pressure.

“I don’t know if there’s scientific proof, but when you get cold fronts coming through I think that has something to do with it. It increases pressure on the guts sometimes. It’s more than just a coincidence that when some of these fronts come through you see horses with a bellyache.”

Veterinarian Luke Bass, who teaches at Colorado State University’s veterinary hospital and specializes in equine ambulatory care, said a fair 60 degrees in the afternoon and a drop to 20 degrees at night can throw off a horse’s gastrointestinal system and cause colic to develop.

Though there’s not much a horse owner can do about cold fronts, being deliberate and careful about the other environmental factors can help avoid a painful and potentially dangerous situation for the horse.

Check out Winter Weather Increases Risk of Colic in Horses: Part 2–Water and Part 3 later this week.

This article originally appeared in The Breeders Connection, published by The Fence Post, a sister publication to Cavvy Savvy and Tri-State Livestock News.


Posted in: Featured, Horse Care