Risk Factors and Causes of Colic

In most cases, the underlying cause of a colic episode is never determined. This is partly why myths and misconceptions abound such as the advice not to let a horse drink cold water after exercise, or not to let a horse roll if he’s showing signs of colic for fear that his intestines will twist. Fortunately, experts in the field have combed through the literature and identified some proven risk factors for colic in horses, many of which are preventable.

Hay Changes: including switching types or feeding a new cut, can increase a horse’s chances of developing colic by 10x.

Grain Changes: including changes in amount, type or brand, can cause a 5x increase in colic risk.

Lack of Water: Lack of access to water has been associated with greater risk for GI trouble, including impaction colic.

Increased stall time: Research shows that stabling increases the chances of colic episode compared to being turned out.

Change in Activity: Sudden increases or decreases in the amount of exercise a horse gets can lead to digestive disturbance.

Deworming: Failure to receive appropriate deworming doubles a horse’s risk of developing colic.

History of Colic: Horses with a history of previous colic are at a four-fold higher risk for future colic episodes.

Other proven risk factors include feeding more than 5 pounds of grain in one meal, spending time in a stall vs being turned out, feeding hay from round bales, dramatic changes in exercise (either more or less), feeding coastal Bermudagrass hay, excessive use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like “bute” and Banamine ® and being turned out on sand.

Courtesy of SmartPak