Colic in Horses - Tell tale signs

How to tell if your horse has colic?

Every horse owner dreads their horse getting colic, but how do we detect this fatal disease early and how do we prevent our horse from getting colic?

What is colic in horses?

Colic in horses is simply abdominal pain caused by gas and grain overload and can cause severe distress in horses and lead to death if untreated. Horse colic is the number one horse killer! Once you detect colic in your horse, it is vital to get an equine vet to see to your horses urgently. You can recognize colic in your horse by the following symptoms:

  • Frequent stretching or looking like your horse is trying to urinate often.
  • Pawing the ground.
  • Lack of faecal production or diarrhea.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Sweating, trembling, agitation or depression.
  • Rolling or thrashing.
  • Lying down all the time or standing and lying repeatedly (restless)
  • Curling the upper lip.
  • Biting.


  • If your horse displays any of these symptoms, have an equine vet perform a colic check immediately!

    Your horse vet will check things like the colour of his eyes and mouth as the mucous membranes' colour can indicate his state of pain. Whether pale or red and purple which means your horse is in toxic shock. Your equine vet will also check his heart rate (normal is 25 - 40 pulses per minute), his breathing (normal is 6 - 12 breaths per minute), his temperature (normal is 26.5 - 28.5ºC) and noises (or in some cases severe lack of noise) coming from your horse's gut.

    What is the treatment for horse colic?

    In most cases (about 90%) horses can be treated with medicines at the yard and do not have to be hospitalized if they're responding well to these medicines. However, in severe cases your horse would need to be hospitalized to be treated against dehydration for example and perhaps even get surgery to repair damage to intestines. This is where you need to make sure you have sufficient horse insurance to cover colic as a surgical procedure.

    How do you prevent your horse from getting colic?

    Unfortunately not all colic in horses can be prevented but you can severely decrease chances of your horse getting colic by applying proper and consistent management with the following basic rules:

  • Make sure your horse always has fresh water at hand throughout the day.
  • Regular exercise is important.
  • Obtain the correct balance in his food between roughage and concentrates.
  • Regular de-worming and administering probiotics to control the parasites in his gut.
  • Never make any sudden changes in your horse's diet but rather transition gradually one factor at a time.


  • In a nutshell, get an equine nutritionist to advise you on the correct food program for your horse, exercise him daily and keep a close eye daily on his behavior so as to detect any irregularities early!

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