Colic in the Mini Horse










Colic is one of the main causes of death in horses, and miniature horses are especially vulnerable
due to the small size of their intestines, allowing a blockage to form. This is a painful condition
caused by a disruption of the horse's digestive system. It can occur from such causes as, internal
parasites, large- or small-colon impaction, or spoiled food.

The term “colic” refers to abdominal pain in the horse.  It does not indicate the cause of the pain.  
Colic can be due to gastrointestinal, urinary or reproductive problems.

GI (gastrointestinal) issues are the most common cause of colic.  Furthermore, the 2 common
causes of GI pain in the horse is either gas or impaction.

The best preventative is to keep the miniature horse on a laxative diet, and grass is the most
desirable food for this reason. Avoid coarse hay or forage.

Intestinal parasites is one of the most common causes of colic in horses and can be prevented by
regular worming. Keeping manure cleaned out of the pens and mowing pastures will reduce worm
populations.

The miniature horse can be dewormed every 8 weeks, or he can be given a daily dose of dewormer
in his food. The safest products are pyrantel, bendamidazole, and ivermectin. Ivermectin should be
administered after the first frost in the fall and again in the spring to combat bots.

One of the causes can be enteroliths, which are stones that form around a foreign object
swallowed by the horse. Wood, metal, plastic or glass can cause this if ingested by the miniature
horse. Foals that chew their mother's mane or tails also can develop this condition.

Surgery is the only treatment if a miniature horse is diagnosed with colic caused by enteroliths.
Prevention of enteroliths is through avoidance of bran and alfalfa hay which are high in minerals
that cause these stones to form.

Gas is also a common cause of colic in horses.  Most times, the cause of gas is not found but known
reasons for gas in horses are: rapid change in diet- including sudden change to an either very rich or
poor quality of hay, and parasitic infection.  With colic caused by gas, horses have brief, self
limited symptoms such as: the horse looking at it’s side, pawing, pacing, shaking, stretching
repeatedly, playing with their water but not seeming to drink much, and even appearing mildly
bloated.  

If gas is the cause, then these symptoms should improved by encouraging hydration and walking the
horse for up to an hour. However, if after an hour this does not seem to relieve the symptoms or if
the horse begins to lie down, roll,  appear depressed or stop eating, seek veterinary care
immediately as this could signal a potentially life threatening cause, such as impaction.

Impaction is a blockage in the intestine.  Causes of this can include coarse dry feed material that
the horse has consumed without adequate water intake; poor chewing while eating due to dental
problems; and even decreased GI motility from decreased physical activity or advanced age.  
Worm or sand impaction can even be a cause of blockage.  So if your horse’s colic symptoms do not
resolve in about an hour, or any warning symptoms occur, it is better to seek immediate veterinary
attention.
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