Colic in horses is a term used to describe all types of abdominal pain in horses. It can affect horses of all ages and types, and can vary from a mild bout of discomfort that resolves itself to something more serious that requires medical management, or most dramatically a serious abdominal crisis requiring surgery. Every year hundred of horses lose their lives to colic, with some high profile top competition horses among them.
Most colic cases are successfully cured medically, but between 5-10% will require emergency colic surgery. It is difficult to know which colic case fits into which category, as in the early stages the clinical signs are the same (see below). Therefore it is vital that a vet is called promptly so they can give expert advice and start appropriate treatment as quickly as possible. Any colic that requires surgical intervention has a much better chance of success if surgery happens as soon as possible.