Colic in Horses

Horses that have colic experience pain within their abdominal area for a variety of reasons. Colic in horses is a condition that can be quite distressing to the animals.

For vets, colic is used as an actual symptom, or clinical sign, instead of a diagnosis. The term colic, or saying a horse has colic is similar to saying a horse has dental pain, or leg pain. The only real difference is that colic is, in some cases, considered by the horse owner as a diagnosis, as it does present a variety of discomforting symptoms.

The term colic in general is a general medical term for many types of pain in the gastrointestinal area.

Severe colic caused by small intestine abnormalities or blockages can be life-threatening, and it's important to see a vet as soon as possible. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be required.



Colic can present with a range of symptoms. Your horse may have a few of these symptoms or several. Symptoms of colic in horses include:

  • Distress
  • Rolling
  • Legs tucked with laying on the ground
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stretching
  • Sitting
  • Lack of movement sounds in the gut


Causes of Colic

Colic has been shown to be dependent upon your horse’s microflora and anatomy of his gastrointestinal tract. Colic can be quite uncomfortable to your horse. Causes of colic in horses may include:

  • A diet high in grain
  • Ingesting sand within the food 
  • Feed that is moldy
  • Parasites
  • Not enough water in the body
  • Changing your horses diet
  • NSAID usage over time
  • Dental issues
  • Intestinal blockage
  • An overstretched intestine wall (by gas or fluid)
  • Twisting of the intestine
  • Inflammation in the intestinal wall
  • Obstruction in the lumen


Treatment for colic depends on a number of factors. The age of the horse, the cause of for the colic, and the overall health of your horse.  We will also assess if there are any underlying conditions to determine the best mode of treatment. Treatment also depends on the severity of the colic. Treatment methods may consist of:

  • Medication
  • Laxatives and Lubricants
  • Deworming
  • Surgery