Tuesday Tips: Avoiding the ‘C-Word’
Ah, it’s almost spring–the season of mud, and unfortunately, sometimes colic.
Colic can strike at any time of the year and can impact horses in even the best of barns. Springtime, when horses are foaling and dealing with diet/weather changes, can sometimes feel like it brings more cases than other times of year, so this may be a good time to review guidelines for staving off this awful illness.
The following is reprinted from the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and is available here.
Colic is a problem with many potential causes and contributing factors, some of which are beyond our control. However, management plays a key role in most cases of colic, so colic prevention centers on management. Although not every case of colic is avoidable, the following guidelines can maximize your horse’s health and reduce the risk of colic:
- Establish a set daily routine—including feeding, exercise and turnout schedules—and stick to it (even on weekends).
- Feed a high-quality diet comprised primarily of high-quality roughage (pasture, hay, hay cubes, haylage). Except for young foals, all horses should be fed at least one percent of their body weight (or one pound per 100 pound body weight) of good quality roughage per day. It is important to feed good quality hay and avoid abrupt changes to new varieties or batches of hay. This can be accomplished by slowly incorporating new varieties or batches of hay when required. Avoid moldy or poor quality hay.
- Limit the amount of grain-based feeds (grain in any form, sweet feed, pellets in which the main ingredients are grains). Feed these only as a supplement, and not more than 50 percent of the diet.
- Divide the daily concentrate ration into two or more smaller feedings, rather than one large one, to avoid overloading the horse’s digestive tract. Hay is best fed free-choice.
- Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your veterinarian. Use fecal examination to determine its effectiveness.
- Provide exercise and/or turnout every day.
- Make any changes to diet, housing and activity level gradually.
- Provide fresh, clean water at all times.
- Avoid giving your horse medications unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian.
- Check hay, bedding, pasture and environment for potentially toxic substances, such as blister beetles, noxious weeds and other ingestible foreign matter.
- Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils.
- Reduce stress; horses experiencing changes in environment or workloads are at high risk for intestinal dysfunction.
- Pay special attention to animals when transporting them or changing their surroundings, such as at shows.
- Observe foaling mares pre- and post-foaling for any signs of colic.
- Pay particular attention to horses that have had previous bouts of colic, as they may be at greater risk for repeated episodes.
- Maintain accurate records of management, feeding practices and health.