Equine Colic Types

Impactions – Cecal, colon and small colon

Pelvic flexure impactions

Large colon impactions 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

 

 

Enterolithiasis

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

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
  • Auscultate ventral abdomen for “ocean” sounds
  • Radiographs
Complications
  • Mucosal erosion
  • Secondary large colon torsion
Treatment
  • Psyllium + mineral oil
  • Psyllium + magnesium sulfate
  • 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; Elaine Norton, DVM PhD; Erica Dobbs, DVM; and Ashley Ezzo, DVM is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.