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Caring for a horse after colic surgery *H&H Plus*

What’s involved in caring for a horse after a colic operation? Andrea Oakes follows the process from hospital to home

In roughly one in 10 cases of colic in horses, wherever a gastrointestinal obstruction cannot be treated by medical means, then surgery may be a necessity.

The decision to operate is never taken lightly, however, since opening up a horse’s abdomen to investigate the many metres of intestines is not without risk. Sections may be displaced, distended or in some cases dying, due to obstruction of the blood supply, calling for resection (removal) of these diseased areas. Then there’s the challenge of anaesthetising such a large animal during the procedure and returning him safely to his feet.

“A horse undergoing colic surgery may already be tired and sick, increasing the risk of cardiac arrest, myopathy (muscle disease) or bone fracture as he comes round from general anaesthesia,” says Rosie Olley MRCVS, a Bell Equine clinician. “Yet anaesthesia and surgery techniques continue to evolve – and horses tend to be more robust than we are. After his first shaky steps in the recovery room, it’s not uncommon to see a patient alert and neighing at the other horses once back at the clinic stables.”

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