Could chronic, mild colic be a sign of another health problem in your horse?
I have a client who has a mare in training with me that colics very mildly every few months. She is typically given a small dose of Banamine, and she is usually fine. However, it concerns me that something more could be happening. She typically has normal gut sounds, eats and defecates within 30 minutes of symptoms, then doesn’t have symptoms again. What do I do next?
Without knowing more details, it is difficult to speculate on this particular mare’s reason for her intermittent colic. It could be stress-induced, or it could be something even more problematic, such as sand in the intestines or even an enterolith (a mineralized foreign body that grows and enlarges within the digestive tract) or something else entirely. Knowing the horse’s age, breed, training program, geographic location and diet would be helpful, as would knowing when she shows symptoms: right after she eats, right after or during exercise, only at shows, etc.
My recommendation would be to go ahead and involve your veterinarian with this mare, and give him or her the mare’s details, what you have done in the past and current concerns. Be ready to contact him or her as soon as the mare colics next time – before you give any medication such as Banamine. Banamine is a useful medication; however, it only masks the signs of pain and reduces inflammation, it doesn’t treat the underlying cause of the colic, and it can sometimes make it difficult for a vet during the diagnostic process.
Until then, keep a detailed journal of this mare’s training protocol, including intensity, types and times; as well as dietary information – including types, amounts and times of feeding, when she is fed in relation to her exercise/training, etc.; and then start comparing that to when she actually colics. This will be useful information that you can provide your veterinarian, and it will help him or her in the diagnostic process.
Also, always make sure to keep the owner of the horse informed as to the horse’s medical situation and consult with them about what they want done. Consult with the insurance company as well, if the horse is insured.
– Dr. Nannette Chastine, The University of Montana-Western, Dillon, Montana