Barn Management: Colic – how serious is it?

After everything calmed down about Pandora’s colic episode, I took a moment to regroup with my vet and tell her I wanted a Colic 101 update. I’ve written about the typical causes of colic as I see them… and I’ve written about what you should do and what you can expect while waiting for the vet.

However, how do I know that a colic is life-threatening? When should I really be hitting that Big Red Panic Button?

After all, Pandora looked pretty whacked yesterday. When I got to the barn she was laying flat out on her side asleep. I could tell she was breathing so I tried to be cool with her sleeping even though I wanted to shake her awake and scream: ARE YOU OKAY!!?? Resisted that impulse; instead just pulled up the mounting block and watched her sleep for an hour.

So here is what I was told –

1.) Let the horse be your guide. When you arrive, is your horse banged up in the face? Is he flailing about, throwing himself against things or the ground?

If so, this is damn serious. If it was my horse I would immediately give a shot of Banamine. I would also be hitching up the horse trailer and calling the clinic to expect me! However, consult your VET FIRST!

2.) Remember, it’s okay if your horse wants to lay down quietly (no rolling). I know it looks shocking but they are just tired.

Honestly, I can feel their pain. Literally. I fell asleep during my son’s labor. Sometimes your body needs a rest and you would be amazed at what it can sleep through.

3.) Walk the horse only to prevent rolling. Walking to the point of exhaustion won’t help.

4.) Check the gums. You should be able to press and get back to normal within 3 seconds. A red line across the gum-line could indicate toxicity as the culprit.

Horses with pink noses or Paint/Pintos with white noses generally have paler gums then dark colored horses; check during normal times to get a feel for your horses’ individuality.

When I check the horse’s gum, I also try to get a feel for how dry their mouth seems to be. I usually dip my hand into water and stimulate the gums in hopes of encouraging them to wet their mouth, swallow, relax, and perhaps remind them to drink. I don’t know if this works. It gives me comfort though during a time when there is little you can do.

5.) Check the respiration. If you don’t know how to do that just let your eyes give you feedback. For example, when I arrived, Pandora’s nostrils were normal (no redness, no fluttering (“panting”), so I figured we weren’t on Death’s Door just yet.

Just an update for those who might need it…

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