Equine Colic Types

Impactions – Cecal, colon and small colon

Pelvic flexure impactions

Large colon impactions (intestinal blockage by food material) are very common and generally occur at the pelvic flexure due to the narrowed turn

Signalment
  • All ages and breeds. Show horses?
Clinical signs
  • Mild colic, slow onset
  • Decreased manure production
  • Small dry feces +/- mucus covered
Diagnosis
  • History, response to therapy
  • Rectal palpation – doughy mass near pelvis
  • Differentials – gas colic, colon displacement
Complications
  • Eventually the impaction can damage the local blood supply. This leads to necrosis and bowel rupture
Treatment
  • See field colics.
  • Improve motility, control pain, soften the impaction, prevent worsening
  • Surgery if not responsive
Risk factors
  • Sudden feed changes, management changes, exercise changes
  • Motility disorders, other illness, atropine or anesthesia
  • Following surgery and not on analgesics
  • Inadequate mastication
  • Poor dentition
  • Poor feed quality
  • Reduced water intake
Prognosis
  • Good
Prevention
  • Minimize management and feed changes
  • Ensure good water intake
  • Feed off the ground to minimize sand intake
  • Good dental care
  • Parasite control
  • Owner involved in animal care

 

 

Cecal impactions

Signalment
  • Especially Arabs, Appaloosas and Morgans
  • Especially >15 yo
Clinical signs
  • Mild colic, slow onset
  • Decreased manure production- may be the only sign due to the NSAIDs masking pain
  • Anorexia, depression
Diagnosis
  • Rectal palpation – doughy mass to right of midline
Complications
  • Cecal rupture, recurrence if treated
Treatment
  • Challenging – laxatives bypass the cecum. Surgery may be required.
Risk factors
  • Eye conditions being treated with atropine
  • Hospitalized horses treated with NSAIDs
  • Sandy environment
  • Tapeworms
Prognosis
  • Grave
Prevention
  • Monitor animals on atropine and hospitalized animals closely

 

Signalment
  • Especially 5-15 yo
  • Arabs, Morgans, Saddlebreds, donkeys, miniature horses
  • Mares
Clinical signs
  • Intermittent mild colic
  • Pain after exercise
  • Can -> acute severe pain
Diagnosis
  • Rectal palpation on a hill (so transverse colon floats back)
  • Radiographs
  • Differentials – gas colics, impactions
Complications
  • Intestinal rupture
  • Diarrhea, fever postop
Treatment
  • Surgery
Risk factors
  • Another horse on the property has enteroliths
  • Life in California, Indiana, Florida
  • Water with high levels of Mg
  • Eating alfalfa
  • Limited pasture access
  • Confinement >50% of the day
Prognosis
  • Good – may recur
Prevention
  • Feed grass hay
  • Feed 1 c vinegar per day
  • Avoid bran mashes

youtube video

Sand impactions

Signalment
  • All ages and breeds
Clinical signs
  • Mild colic, slow onset
  • Intermittent diarrhea
  • Weight loss
Diagnosis
  • Sand test – put feces in a plastic bag or rectal sleeve and let stand – does sand settle out? Not a great test but it is easy to try
  • Auscultate ventral abdomen for “ocean” sounds
  • Radiographs- best test
Complications
  • Mucosal erosion
  • Secondary large colon torsion
Treatment
  • Psyllium + mineral oil
  • Psyllium + magnesium sulfate- most useful
  • Surgery
Risk factors
  • High sand content in soil
  • Eating off the ground or short/nonexistent pastures
  • Insufficient roughage
Prognosis
  • Fair to good
Prevention
  • Food off ground or use mats to catch grain
  • Long term psyllium is likely ineffective
  • Ensure eating sufficient fiber

Small colon impactions

Signalment
  • Arabs, minis, and ponies predisposed to small colon lesions (better able to maintain hydration by removing water from ingesta?)
  • Broodmares in the third trimester
  • >15 yo
Clinical signs
  • Mild colic, slow onset -> significant pain
  • Decreased manure production
  • May reflux (compression of duodenum?)
  • Fever (if Salmonellosis)
  • Anorexia
Diagnosis
  • Rectal palpation – doughy tube instead of fecal balls
Complications
  • Colon rupture due to mural necrosis
  • Associated with greater risk of Salmonellosis and diarrhea
Treatment
  • Oral and iv fluids
  • Enemas and laxatives
  • Surgical decompression (enema)
Risk factors
  • Dehydration and other factors as for colon impactions
  • Parasites
Prognosis
  • Good
Prevention
  • As for colon impactions- ensure good water intake, good forage, good dental care

 

Meconium impactions

Signalment
  • foals, especially males?
Clinical signs
  • mild colic within 24 hours of birth
  • becomes more severe with accompanying tympany
Diagnosis
  • Digital rectal
  • Radiology +barium enema
  • Differentials – congenital lesions, ruptured bladder
Complications
  • Patent urachus
  • FPT
Treatment
  • Enemas
  • Analgesics
  • Oral laxatives
Risk factors
  • Delayed colostrum
Prognosis
  • Good
Prevention
  • Early colostrum

Perirectal abscesses can lead to obstipation due to pain

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Large Animal Surgery - Supplemental Notes by Erin Malone, DVM, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.