Equine Colic

Indications for surgery

The decision for surgery can be challenging. It often involves multiple factors and trends over time, in addition to the client goals and willingness. If surgery is indicated but is not an option for the client, euthanasia is probably indicated.

These are indications for surgery:

  1. Persistent pain, even after appropriate analgesics.
  2. Rapid physiologic deterioration
  3. Persistent reflux + pain
  4. Lack of manure and GI sounds despite rehydration
  5. Abnormal rectal combined with lack of response to treatment
  6. abdominocentesis
  7. identified

Peek inside colic surgery

Prep time! Colic surgery is generally  performed with the horse in dorsal recumbency

Colic exploration –youtube video


Prognosis decreases with elevated hematocrit (especially at the 49-50% level) and with elevated heart rate. Kos et al reported that the likelihood of a strangulating small intestinal lesion was high if the horse did not respond to analgesics and the PCV rose >48% in a short interval of time. High lactate levels that keep rising despite fluid therapy also indicate poor prognosis.


Exploratory Celiotomy in the Horse Secondary to Acute Colic: A Review of Indications and Success Rates.Topics in Companion Animal Medicine Volume 34, March 2019, Pages 1-9- even has algorithms!

Packed cell volume and heart rate to predict medical and surgical cases and their short-term survival in horses with gastrointestinal-induced colic. Kos et al, CVJ 2022; 63:365-372



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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.