Newsletter Volume 6 2017
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Contents of this newsletter

01 Colic comes with the cold

02 Why choke happens

01 Colic comes with the cold

As the temperature drops across southern Australia we should be aware of the effect cold weather can have on our horses.

Horses tend to drink much less in cold weather but they need to eat enough to meet their normal energy requirements and also stay warm. If a horse has not been drinking enough and they are consuming large amounts of dry feed they are at increased risk of impaction colic.

Impaction colic is caused when digested feed becomes lodged in the large intestine, usually just in front of the pelvis where the large intestine does a 180 degree turn.

An impaction is one of the less severe causes of colic and if recognised early it can usually be treated successfully. Treatment for an impaction colic consists of anti-inflammatory pain relief and fluid therapy provided as electrolyte solution via a stomach tube, or intravenously in severe cases.

The symptoms of impaction colic are:

  • slight increase in heart rate
  • dry gums
  • intermittent mild colic signs such as pawing and lying out flat
  • reluctance to drink water, resulting in dehydration

Providing access to green pasture where possible, constant access to clean water, soaking dry feedstuffs, maintaining good dental health, and keeping your horse warm with shelter and rugs are good ways of minimising the chance of your horse developing impaction colic this winter.

Call us immediately if you notice any signs of colic in your horse.

02 Why choke happens

Choke is the common name for oesophageal obstruction. In horses it is not an obstruction of the airway (like it is in humans) and therefore it's not immediately life threatening.

Dry hay, apples and sugar beet are examples of feed which may be caught in the food pipe once swallowed. Feed can rapidly expand after swallowing preventing it from being passed down into the stomach. Eating too quickly can also cause choke. In rare and extreme cases, choke can cause oesophageal scar formation, oesophageal rupture and pneumonia.

Common signs of choke include:

  • excess salivation
  • discharge from the nose
  • coughing
  • swallowing
  • anxiety
  • reduced water consumption and dehydration

Often the obstruction will pass on its own but if not we provide sedation and pass a tube through the nose and down into the oesophagus to gently push the obstruction into the stomach. In severe cases the horse may need to be anaesthetised to do this safely. Anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medication may be prescribed for the aftercare of some choke cases.

To help prevent choke in your horse we recommend soaking dry feedstuffs, feeding greedy horses separately from others, and maintaining good dental care.

If you suspect your horse might have choke please call us.