What is colic and what does it look like? Colic is a generic term used to describe abdominal discomfort. Colic has many causes including gas distension of the large colon, spasm of the intestines, an impaction(s), strangulation of the intestines, gastric ulceration, or displacement of the large colon. The most common signs of colic include:
What should I do if my horse is colicking? If you believe your horse is colicking, remove all feed and call the office (401-766-6578) to speak with a veterinarian. If you have a thermometer, please take the horse’s temperature before calling. The normal temperature for an adult horse is 99.0-101.5*F. Questions we may ask you include: When did your horse last appear normal? Does your horse have a previous history of colic? How many piles of manure were passed today? Has the consistency of the manure been normal? Has your horse been drinking less water than usual? Have there been any changes in routine or feeding regimens? Is your horse on any medications? Is your horse insured?
If a veterinary visit is required, we may advise you to walk your horse while we are on the way to you. Five to ten minute periods of walking will suffice, and the patient should not be walked continuously to the point of exhaustion. Do not administer any feed or medications, unless directed otherwise by an OSEA veterinarian.
If you have arrived at the barn and find your horse with a laceration or puncture wound, move the horse to a safe place for further assessment and contact the clinic immediately. Questions to consider include:
Questions the veterinarian may ask you include: the location, size, and depth of the wound, if the patient is lame, and the date of the last tetanus booster.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends “horses that sustain a wound or undergo surgery 6 or more months after their previous tetanus booster should be revaccinated with tetanus toxoid immediately at the time of injury or surgery”. Additionally, the depth or severity of a wound does not predict the risk for the development of clinical tetanus; simple superficial lacerations have resulted in clinical tetanus in horses.
While you wait for the veterinarian, keep the horse stalled and quiet. If it is safe and there is no active bleeding, you may gently clean the wound with a dilute betadine solution or chlorhexidine scrub and rinse with saline or water. Then, apply a bandage until the veterinarian arrives.
A severe lameness is characterized by a rapid onset, severe lameness (ie. non-weight bearing, toe-touching, or noticeably lame at the walk). Please call the office at (401) 766-6578 if your horse is experiencing severe lameness, as this warrants examination by a veterinarian.
Causes of severe lameness may include a hoof abscess, laminitis, hoof puncture by penetrating nail, soft tissue injury, and fracture or dislocation. Examine the horse for any wounds, heat, or swelling in the affected limb(s). Make sure to check the bottom of the foot for penetrating foreign objects, such as a nail.
If your horse has stepped on a nail, DO NOT remove the nail from the bottom of the foot and call the office immediately.
Do not pull the nail, avoid further walking, and attempt to keep the horse calm. Call the office immediately; the horse can likely tolerate standing non-weight bearing on the affected limb until the veterinarian arrives. Radiographs taken with the nail in place are helpful to determine the path of the nail, including if the nail may have punctured any surrounding synovial structures such as the coffin joint, navicular bursa, and the digital flexor tendon sheath. If any of these structures have been penetrated, likely, referral to an equine hospital for aggressive medical and surgical therapy will be recommended, as infection may result in severe, life-threatening lameness or laminitis.
What is choke and what does it look like? Esophageal obstruction, aka choke, occurs when a foreign body (usually feed) becomes blocked within a portion of the horse’s esophagus. Common causes of choking include poor dentition and grinding capability of the teeth, swallowing of food material that is too dry or coarse, conditions that interfere with normal chewing function, esophageal abnormalities, and “bolting”, or rapidly ingesting the feed. The most common signs of choke include:
What should I do if I believe my horse is choking? If you suspect that your horse is choked, please stall the horse and remove all access to feed and water. Please attempt to keep the horse calm/quiet. Please call the office at 401-766-6578 for further veterinary guidance. Although many choke episodes resolve on their own, it is still important to alert your veterinarian immediately. Complications of choke, especially those that are of long duration, include pneumonia, esophageal lacerations or tears, and esophageal strictures. If you believe your horse has had a recent episode of choke, please call to schedule an oral examination
Eye abnormalities, including cloudiness, squinting, swelling, tearing, redness, blunt force trauma, or lacerations of the eyelids and/or cornea are ALWAYS considered an emergency. Equine ocular injuries often progress rapidly and can become serious if not managed properly. If you notice any of the following signs, please call the office immediately:
Common causes of ocular abnormalities include blunt trauma, corneal abrasions or ulcers, and uveitis (aka “moon blindness”). If you have any ocular ointments or drops in your possession, DO NOT administer them to the patient without veterinary guidance. Not all ocular ointments are the same, and some can make conditions worse.
If your horse has a laceration to an upper or lower eyelid, even if small, please call the office at (401)-766-6578 to speak with a veterinarian.
The eyelids contain many glands and structures that are critical to the overall health of the eye. If your horse has suffered an eyelid laceration, large or small, examination and repair of the laceration will likely be recommended to ensure normal eyelid alignment that is necessary for the health of the eye.
Laminitis is a common cause of severe lameness in one or multiple limbs. Laminitis or “founder” occurs when the blood flow to the sensitive and insensitive laminae is disrupted. These laminae secure the coffin bone in place to the hoof wall. In severe cases, the bone and hoof wall can separate, causing “sinking” or “rotation” of the third phalanx (P3) within the hoof capsule. This condition is excruciatingly painful and can be caused the following:
Signs of laminitis include:
Laminitis should be treated as urgently as possible. Please call the office immediately if you think your horse is experiencing laminitis. Until your horse is examined, confine him/her to a small stall with deep bedding and ice the limbs from the level of the fetlock down.
Flaring of the nostrils, an elevated respiratory rate, excessive airway noise, and increased movement of the flanks during respiration are common signs of respiratory difficulty in horses. These signs are particularly concerning if they are combined with a fever (temperature of 101.5 or above), following a recent episode of choke, the horse has recently traveled, or if the signs are occurring while your horse is at rest. The normal respiratory rate for an adult horse at rest is between 8-24 breaths per minute. If you believe your horse is experiencing respiratory distress, please call the office immediately at 401-766-6578 for further advice.
Neurologic diseases in horses not only present a great danger to the animals themselves but also the people surrounding them. If you believe your horse is exhibiting neurologic signs, please call the clinic at (401)-766-6578. If it is safe, attempt to separate the horse from other animals and confine him/her to a safe area, such as a well-bedded and quiet stall. Out of concern for human safety, please avoid handling the horse before the arrival of the veterinarian. Some examples of classic neurologic signs in the horse are stumbling, ataxia, loss of balance, incoordination, interference of the legs while walking, a “floating” gait, inability to chew or swallow, drooping lip, eyelid or ear, severe depression, non-responsive to normal stimulation, compulsive circling, head-pressing, rigidity, acute onset blindness, dribbling of urine. If you notice any of these signs or any other drastic changes in behavior call the office right away at (401-766-6578). Questions the veterinarian may ask you include: What is the affected horse’s vaccination history? Does the horse have any history of travel? Are there any other affected horses on the property? Are there new horses on the property? What is the horse’s temperature? Does the horse have a cough or nasal discharge? Is there any history of trauma? There are many potential causes for neurologic symptoms in horses. If a horse is exhibiting neurologic signs you should minimize contact with the affected horse, wear disposable gloves, and quarantine from other horses until a definitive diagnosis is reached. Early intervention is important for collecting adequate samples for diagnosis as well as starting appropriate treatment. Referral to a specialty hospital for intensive supportive care is often recommended early because transportation can be difficult to impossible as signs progress.