08 Oct Recurrent colic – risk factors identified
Colic instills fear into the heart of horse-owners worldwide, and so it should. Despite all that we know regarding prevention and treatment, it still remains the number 1 killer of horses.
While a number of management factors have been repeatedly implicated in increased risk of colic, there is little information as to how these risk factors affect the risk of recurrent colic.
Researchers in the UK recently investigated factors that placed the horse at greater risk of recurrent colic bouts (in this study, defined as a second bout of colic within 48 hours of the first colic being resolved). In particular, they identified that increasing the amount of time spent at pasture decreased the risk of recurrent colic.
This supports findings reported in previous studies and likely reflects the combined benefit of grazing, hanging out with friends in a more natural environment, and moving around…i.e. Forage, Friendship, Freedom.
While cribbing and windsucking have been previously linked to increased risk of colic, this was the first study to report an association between weaving behavior and an increased risk of colic.
Weaving has generally been considered a locomotory stereotypy that arises when movement is restricted. However, if we consider HOW a horse grazes, it is not surprising there is a link between inhibiting this behavior and the development of colic.
Interestingly, the researchers in this study also found that horses who had fruits and vegetables in their diet (i.e. variety!) showed a decreased risk of colic….succulents were always something we were advised to feed back 30+ years ago, yet we seem to have moved away from this. However, the amount/type/frequency was not defined in this study, so don’t go too wild at the farmer’s market this weekend!
In short, the horse is meant to trickle feed on a huge variety of fresh green stuff. We can create an environment that better meets his nutritional and behavioral needs, and in doing so, we can significantly reduce the risk of the incidence of colic, and other such management and feed-related maladies. Be aware that any sudden change in nutrition or management can bring with it an increased risk of colic. Make changes gradually and seek professional help if you are at all concerned or worried.
I’ve included the link to the full paper here, for anyone that would like more in-depth info.