Equine Veterinary After-Hours Emergencies

In a study of after-hours emergency calls at private practices in England, the top three reasons were colic, wounds and lameness.
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colic horse down

An after-hours emergency calls study looked at the reasons for calls, the list of which was topped by colic.

For those practitioners continually tied to emergency duty, do you ever wonder what other colleagues are experiencing with regard to emergency calls? One group in Britain looked at the kinds of after-hours emergency calls to which mobile equine veterinarians from two practices responded over a three-year period (2011-2013). In all, there were 2,602 emergency cases included in the study.

Not surprisingly, 32% of calls were for colic. Wounds made up approximately 20% of client calls for help, and lameness emergencies averaged around 11%.

Only 4% of wounds and 9% of lameness-affected horses were euthanized.

Consideration of ‘Critical’ Colic Cases

The after-hours emergency study further examined 941 cases of horses with abdominal pain. Of these, nearly 24% were identified as “critical.” Of all the horses with colic pain, 18% were euthanized.

Three “red-flag” variables were associated with a case being considered critical:

  • increased heart rate;
  • abnormal mucous membrane color;
  • absence of borborygmi in at least one quadrant with abdominal auscultation.

These parameters are helpful in determining whether a horse needs to be referred to a hospital for further evaluation and treatment.