Signs of Colic

Mild Colic: Turning the head toward the flank, kicking or biting at the abdomen, lack of appetite (anorexia), restlessness, depression, cool extremities, pawing, curling upper lip, lying down and getting up, increased pulse (greater than 52 BPM) and respiration, sweating, stretching out as if to urinate without doing so, increased or absent gut sounds.

Severe Colic: Same as above, plus rolling, thrashing, red or blue mucous membranes, slow capillary refill, shock, and death.

What to do if your horse is colicing

Try to prevent horse from rolling. Notify the hospital as soon as possible and you will be advised on treatment. If the clinical signs do resolve the horse should be monitored closely with particular attention paid to fecal output and consistency. Hay and Grain should be withheld for 12 hours. When you contact the hospital, the following information will be helpful:

  • HR (normal 36-42). Increased heart rate indicates pain. Listen for 10 sec and multiply the number of beats times 6
  • RR (normal 18-24)
  • Mucous Membrane should be pink. Know your horse's normal mucous membrane color.
  • Report any gut sounds.
  • Temperature (normal 99-100)
  • Any recent changes in management, feeding or exercise
  • Bowel movements
  • If any drugs were administered to relieve any pain and how much


Know your horse's appetite, water consumption and fecal output. Maintain a regular feeding schedule. Divide daily concentrate rations into two or more smaller feedings rather than one large one to avoid overloading the horse's digestive tract. Avoid moldy grain and hays. Make dietary and other management changes as gradually as possible. Provide fresh, clean water at all times. Provide exercise and/or turnout on a daily basis. Daily access to grazing. Participate in regular DEWORMING (Consult with your Veterinarian to help determine the best protocol).
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