Colic In Horses : Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention 2021

Do you know that over 70 types of infections can cause colic in horses? A horse would possibly pass out if colic is not treated.

Colic in horses refers to a condition in which horses have terrible pain in their abdominal cavity because of several infections in the gastrointestinal cavity. A horse can survive colic with proper medications and precautions.

In this blog post, I will discuss the detailed analysis I have done on colic in horses. Let’s dive into the article now!

What Is Colic In A Horse

Colic is often interpreted as an infectious disease in horses, but it is not a disease, but colic can be the root cause of many other diseases.

Colic In Horses

Colic in horses is a severe condition in which horses experience pain in the stomach, making horses maniac and anxious. Several factors cause colic, including infections, water consumption, etc.

Colic signs are evident in horses and may be seen early while a horse is not having severe pains, but if left untreated, the colic may cause the death of horses!

Is Horse Colic Serious?

Colic signs may or may not need veterinary assistance. Like, you might be wondering:

When should I be concerned about colic in horses?

Colic in horses may pose a potentially life-threatening if severe symptoms haven’t gone after several hours. In that case, calling a vet or taking your horse to a clinic is the best option.

7 Types Of Colic In Horses

How many types of colic are there in horses?

Colic in horses is of mainly seven types caused by over 70 types of infections, one of which is the worm infection. The seven types are:

  1. Displacement Colic
  2. Gas Colic
  3. Impaction Colic
  4. Sand Colic
  5. Spasmodic Colic
  6. Strangulation Colic
  7. Twisted Gut Colic

1. Displacement Colic

Displacement colic is the type of colic with serious life threats.

It happens when any intestinal organs have moved from their place and affect the blood supply to the intestinal portion posing an alarming fatal situation.

Usually, surgery is required to counter the displacement colic in horses.

2. Gas Colic

Gas colic in horses is the same as you have understood by the name.

Gas colic results from flatulence, which means that gas has been gathered in the stomach, causing complicated bowel movements in horses.

It is the most common type of colic and may be treated on its own if a horse is doing a little walk.

3. Impaction Colic

Impaction colic in horses has very few incidents (less than 10%) but is very life-threatening.

Impaction means impassable when a significant food particle is undigested and cannot pass through the large intestine, impaction colic results, blocking the poop.

It might be very frustrating for horses, but consistent walking and short bites may help the horses prevent such a condition.

4. Sand Colic

Sand colic is common in horses native to the areas where sand is ordinary, like those horses living next to the seashores and hills.

Sand colic is a result of excess sand which the horse has taken with food. Sand colic disturbs intestinal function and causes irregular pooping and rhythmic pains.

That’s why it’s essential to filter the food while feeding to your horse to prevent any sand colic.

5. Spasmodic Colic

What do you think happens in spasmodic colic? Spasmodic colic is associated with spam or bruises in the intestines. So it would be something injuries in the internal abdominal cavity.

Spasmodic colic is the leading type of colic in horses, resulting from any spasms or bruises. Generally, the normal intestinal function is halted, and horses have killing pain.

Spasmodic colic is fatal as it might cause a stoppage of digestion, and sometimes internal bleeding is observed, which is very alarming in horses.

6. Strangulation Colic

What do you think of strangulation colic? Strangulation is a term used to describe the blood cut in an area of the body.

Strangulation colic in horses is a condition where a horse’s body reacts to an infection by inhibiting the blood supply to a specific part of the intestine.

Severe effects show up when a horse has contracted strangulation colic. In this case, a horse needs proper vet assistance and immediate nurture, which if not provided causes a fatality.

So, try to be more precise when feeding our horse, and cross-check the contamination, as it will decrease the incidence of strangulation colic.

7. Twisted Gut Colic

Twisted gut colic in horses is the most horrible thing you can imagine.

As the name implies, twisted gut colic is a condition when the intestines have been twisted around each other like a coil due to infections or worms.

A few horses have this condition, but the condition is very lethal and must be prevented at any cost by providing emergency medical assistance to the horse.

Symptoms Of Colic In Horses

What are the first signs of colic in a horse?

When a horse contracts colic, the symptoms won’t show up suddenly. The signs may be showing up when the infection has done considerable damage to the horse’s intestine.

The early signs of colic in horses are as follows:

  • Pawing On Ground
  • Staring Flank Continuously
  • Kicking The Flank
  • Tail Swishing
  • Sitting Up And Down Repeatedly
  • Lying Continuously On The Back
  • Aggressively Hitting Against The Ground
  • Rolling On The Floor
  • Curling The Upper-lip Widely
  • Stretching The Stance
  • Sweating Excessively
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Loss Of Appetite
  • Dullness
  • Agitation
  • Blood In The Eyes
  • Biting At The Flank

All these symptoms are observed in the horses whenever a horse has contracted colic.

It is not fixed that every horse will show all of these symptoms. These are just the vital signs that might appear while a horse has colic.

But colic in horses is strongly suggested to be the pain in the abdominal cavity which is why a horse would be rolling on the ground and making horrible noises claiming that it needs some help.

So if you have confirmed that a horse has colic, immediately provide the necessary medical help it needs to be saved in time.

Calling the emergency animal services in your area will be the best option for you if your horse is acting crazy and in great pain.

What Causes Colic In Horses

What is the most common cause of colic in horses?

Let’s discuss the causes of colic in horses and what causes them to come again and again.

Colics in horses is due to many reasons, but scientists are still not sure what the root cause of any colic is. Mainly gas developed in horses causes horses, or an infection might be causing it.

But if we talk about the reality, colic in horses may be due to a problem in a horse’s diet.

Your horse might have eaten the crap not listed in the diet and is now crawling on the ground for help.

Mainly, some of the foods are here which causes colic.

What Foods Give Horses Colic?

Colic in horses is associated with anything which contains high-grain content. Apples are fruits that you should not be feeding your horses, as it might give them colic.

So, the essential thing to counter colic in horses is to schedule their diet and make sure they are not eating foods that upset their stomach, like potatoes.

Effects of Colic in Horses

Effects of colic in horses are versatile and may be different from horses to horses having different kinds of colic.

What happens when a horse has colic?

Colic happens when a horse is having stabbing pain in the stomach and rolls like a maniac. Some worms, infections, and diet changes cause colic in horses, which drastically affect the horses’ health.

But it is tough to distinguish the effects of colic, as there are seven types of colic and more than 70 types of infections have caused them.

Some risk factors increase the contraction of colic in horses. That is why we should avoid these risk factors as well.

  • Roughage Quality – impaction colic is more likely to occur because of the roughage diet.
  • Concentrate Feeding – if a person has fed over 4-6kg of food to his horse, it would increase the chances of getting colic by many folds, so better serve less food at set intervals.
  • Dietary Change – if an owner has been changing diets very often, it might result in colic, as the digestive system might abruptly respond to the diet change.
  • Post Pregnancy – many infectious diseases are associated with pregnancy, and if birth is given in nasty places, it will cause colic.
  • Transport – the horses which have been traveling are exposed to greater chances of getting colic.
  • Cribbing – crib may pose a greater chance of getting colic.
  • Dental Health – infections and cavities will be the biggest problem of colic in horses.
  • Pasture Access – the horses born, or living in the pastured areas, don’t get colic often.
  • Worm Control – it is a fact that horses who have not been dewormed get the colic more often.

Knowledge of these risk factors and educating people about three risk factors will be the best for humans saving the lives of their precious horses.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Colic?

If you ever think that your horse has a colic attack, then you don’t have to do anything else than taking it to the local vet clinic in the first place.

What to do if you think your horse is Policing?

The best thing to do if you suspect that a horse has colic is to call 911. Immediately connect to a vet, and get the horses treated before it becomes your worst dream and appear with severe symptoms.

Treatment Of Colic In Horses

Treatment of horses struggling with colic is complicated sometimes, as it would be the most painful thing for the horse.

How do you treat a horse with colic?

Treating a horse with colic is primarily done with some anti-biotics and stomach tubes which decrease the gas. But in case of the twisted gut, impaction, or sand colic, horses need surgical treatment.

The vet would provide the following set of treatments to your horse depending upon the severity of the infection:

Pain Relief Medicines

Due to intense pain radiating all over the stomach, horses need some painkillers to prevent sudden pain. Phenylbutazone is the most common drug given to horses in colic.


When a horse has spasmodic colic, the spasm is formed inside the intestines, so particular medicines are used to prevent these, known as antispasmodics.

Electrolytes/Fluid Therapy

Colic causes dehydration in the body as it is not able to take food or water. That’s why some electrolytic fluids are given to horses to compensate for water loss in the horse body.


Laxatives are the liquid paraffin given with a stomach tube. It is mainly used in cases when impaction colic happens.


Horses struggling with displacement or impaction colic need surgery at any cost immediately.

Surgeries are not encouraged unless it is essential to save the life of a horse. Only 50% chances are there for horses to survive during surgery, and it could cost the wonders thousands of dollars.

That’s why it is better to check your horse’s feed, routine, and other essential things before it gets such a serious ailment.

Some people have been claiming “Treating colic in horses with beer,” but it’s not true.

Beer is not healthy for horses in colic, as it could even worsen the situation, but if your horse magically becomes well because of drinking beer, it might be a coincidence.

Take your horse to a vet before trying any foolish remedy. 

Prevention Of Colic In Horses

Someone has wisely said that prevention is better than cure. We don’t turn ears to prevention and only act when a disease is on the verge of chaos.

Following preventions could be practiced:

  • Provide Fresh Air To Your Horse
  • Never Feed Rusty Or Moldy Food To Your Horse
  • Practice Regular Exercise
  • Don’t Feed Excess Forage
  • Cross-check The Sand Contamination
  • Avoiding Sudden Diet Changes

Provide Fresh Air To Your Horse

Fresh air is the basic need for every horse, and you should always make sure the stable is airy and getting fresh air from all sides.

Never Feed Rusty Or Moldy Food To Your Horse

Bad food is the biggest reason for horses getting colic. Stop feeding molded feed to your horses, and they will stop getting colic.

Practice Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is the key to a healthy life for all organisms, so why not for horses? Take a 30-minute break from your life, and talk your horse to a regular walk.

Don’t Feed Excess Forage

Feeding too much food at one time, I’ll make the big food particles get undigested and will cause impaction colic.

Never feed more than 2kg of hay, fescue, or grass to your horse at one time, or it will get colic.

Always provide small and sliced food particles and small amounts so that the horse will not be choking and have a life threat.

Cross-check The Sand Contamination

Contaminated foods will be the biggest enemy of your horse and will be contributing the most to colic attacks.

If the horse’s food gets contaminated with sand, it might get sand colic which is very painful and fatal for horses if not treated in time.

Avoiding Sudden Diet Changes

Never make sudden changes in diet, as the horse’s digestive system is not much evolved like humans to counter the effects of sudden diet changes. Thus, colic is prevented if the diet is maintained.

What percentage of horses get colic?

Do most horses get colic?

In the whole horse population, out of 56 million horses, 1 million horses (about 2%) get colic which also answers how many horses get colic each year.

Surgery would eventually save most of the horses, but over 65000 horses pose severe fatal colic, and more than 5000 horses die annually because of colic.

Will a horse still eat if colic?

Colic might keep the horse’s hunger because it will not be passing the food out during this time.

Horses would not eat when they have colic, but some horses still eat if they are hungry.

Is colic in horses life-threatening?

What is the most significant danger to a horse with colic?

Colic can be treated if diagnosed early, but if impaction colic is not treated, it might cause the death of a horse and is generally due to tooth problems.

Can horse colic go away on its own?

How do you treat colic in horses naturally?

If a horse has contracted mild colic such as gas colic, it will go away naturally by taking a walk, but impaction, sand, twisted, spasmodic colic need vet treatment immediately.

So never wait for the situation to get better, but act at the right time to stop the case from spreading in the body and cause further damage to the horse.

Colic in Horses: 5 Do’s and Don’ts

While you are struggling with colic in horses, here are some of the things that you should do and don’t:


  1. Do connect with your vet immediately and tell him about the situation and the signs your horse has, so he guides you properly.
  2. Do check horse dung to determine if it has colic or not; less poop or no poop confirms that the horse has colic.
  3.  Do make sure you keep an eye on the horse constantly.
  4. Do make your horse go on a walk regularly.
  5. Do make your horse take its medicines on time.


  1. Don’t allow your horse to eat.
  2. Don’t allow your horse to drink.
  3. Please don’t give any drugs to our horse by yourself.
  4. Don’t try any remedy.
  5. Don’t play or ride the horse after surgery very soon.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Final Thoughts On Colic In Horses

Horses may be the resilient animals to counter the cold environment and fight in the races to secure the first place, but their digestive system might not be that strong.

A horse does not like abrupt changes in its food, which is why it might get colic characterized by stabbing pain in the abdominal cavity.

Several types of colic are known, but the 3rd type of colic described above is the most dangerous for your horse and needs to be treated immediately.

You should also be careful in your horse’s diet and provide a clean environment to live in so that it might not get colic.

That’s all about today’s topic, colic in horses. Please share the article if you like it and comment below if you have any questions.

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