Spasmodic colic in horses: all you need to know

Vets at St David’s Equine Clinic in the West Country have noticed more spasmodic colic in horses, which tends to be linked to what horses eat.

“”It’’s probably because the grass didn’’t grow much at the start of the summer when it was dry, then the weather turned cold, warm and very wet, which has made grass grow in spurts”,” says Tony Kaye MRCVS from the clinic.

“Spasmodic colic is the most common type of colic and is caused by disordered movement of the gut. It is typically most common in the spring or after owners moved their horses to a new patch of grazing. The rich sgrass ferments quickly in the hind gut and irritates the lining of this sensitive organ.

Warning signs of “spasmodic colic

  • Lying quietly, dullness,
  • Pawing the ground, curling the top lip
  • Adopting a “straining to urinate” stance
  • Flank watching

If you horse shows these signs, contact your vet, who will typically prescribe pain relief and an antispasmodic drug to help settle the gut. In some cases, gentle walking may help, but a horse should not be forced to walk if they are unwilling to do so.

How to avoid “spasmodic colic

  • Ensure any changes to new pasture are made gradually
  • Restrict the time your horse is in the field on lush grass and supplement his diet with hay
  • Make sure parasite control is done regularly and properly

This formed part of a veterinary feature first published in Horse & Hound