Winter Weather Increases Risk of Colic in Horses: Part 2–Water

  • January 12, 2017
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  • By Kristin Danley-Greiner for The Fence Post

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care

Read part 1 of this series about winter colic in horses here.

Dehydration is probably the biggest factor in winter colic.

“We’ll see horses with an obstruction or impaction in their colon due to the colic. They have about 100 to 120 feet of intestine from one end to the other, so if they aren’t hydrated, the feed in their intestines hardens and doesn’t move, which leads to abdominal pain,” said Bass.

It’s not enough to just make sure horses have access to water—it has to be water they’re willing to drink.

“If the water source is not as warm as the horses prefer, they’re not as interested in drinking it,” Bass said. “I’m not a big fan of automatic waterers, because you can’t monitor how much they’re drinking. It’s nice to put heaters in the water tank, which helps you monitor their intake and keeps it warmer for them.”

If you are bucketing water to your horses, be prepared to haul up to 15 gallons a day. Stricklin said in extremely cold weather a horse is going to drink at least 10 gallons a day, maybe more than that, maybe less. The important thing, he said, is to make sure they’re drinking each day.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any warning signs that a horse is dehydrated. The first thing you notice is likely to be the signs of colic—wanting to lie down, kicking at their bellies, looking at their back end, Stricklin said.

There are upwards of 40 different types of colic, but abdominal pain and impaction are common among all types, Bass said. Horse owners should look for such symptoms as decreased appetite, refusal to drink, lethargy, licking at its side because of the abdominal pain, pawing at the ground, ears pinned back and rolling back and forth on the ground.

“If they aren’t passing manure, they’re really uncomfortable,” he said. “If they’re throwing themselves on the ground or are unable to stand, that’s a severe sign.”

Tying up vs colic

Another common malady, “tying up” can look like colic, and is also caused by dehydration, but the cause and treatment are different. “Tying up is muscles, colic is the belly,” Stricklin said. A horse that is tying up isn’t likely to want to lie down, because its muscles are cramping. “Sometimes the two can look a lot alike, so you need to know what you’re dealing with to know the best way to treat them.”

Walking is recommended for a colicy horse, but not for a horse that’s tying up. If a horse is tying up the recommended treatment is an anti-inflammatory, Stricklin said.

“If you’re not sure which you’re dealing with, you need to get somebody there who does, and can decide the best treatment for them.”

Check out 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