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Disease Du Jour: Equine Colic with Dr. Alison Gardner

Episode 66 of the Disease Du Jour podcast covers one of the most common emergencies that equine veterinarians face: colic.
colic horse field rolling
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"One of the most common emergencies that DVMs see in the field is colic," said Alison Gardner, DVM,DACVS—Large Animal, DDACVECC—Large Animal. She is an assistant professor in Clinical Equine Surgery, Department of Veterinary Clinical Science, at The Ohio State University. Gardner said horse owners have a different perspective of what colic is, whether it is a mild gas colic or a surgical case.

EquiManagement’s Disease Du Jour podcast is focused on equine research and current best practices. Disease Du Jour is brought to you in 2021 by Merck Animal Health.

In this podcast, Gardner walks through various types of colics, diagnoses, treatments and what to look for. She also said walking a colicky horse (that isn't dangerous) can "give owners something to do; especially if I'm 45 minutes or an hour out." But she said you don't have to walk colicky horses for hours. She suggests if a horse is rolling while the owner is trying to walk it, turn it out in an arena or a safe area so it isn't in an enclosed space while rolling.

For mild colics, she said to make sure the owner knows to let the horse have water, but not feed.

Part of the difficulty of a colic is the decision to refer to a surgical hospital or clinic. Gardner said one of the reasons surgeons have such success with surgical colics these days is because the horse is referred in early.

She said she is "happy" if the owner brings the horse in and it steps off the trailer clinically normal. That "therapeutic trailer ride" can do wonders for a mildly colicky horse. She will recommend that the horse be kept overnight in the hospital for observation unless the client is local and can watch the horse for recurring signs of colic.

Gardner said she tells owners who have to haul horses to a clinic "do not stop" if they think the horse has gone down in the trailer or the trailer starts "rocking and rolling." 

"I tell horse owners not to stop on the highway or ride in the back of a trailer with a horse," she said.

She recommended that veterinarians call local referral centers to find out the various costs of different types of colic treatments or surgery so they can prepare clients on what to expect.

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EquiManagement’s Disease Du Jour podcast is
focused on equine research and current best
practices. Disease Du Jour is brought to you
in 2021 by Merck Animal Health.

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