Q: If I think my horse is colicking, should I immediately call the vet?
A: When a horse is in pain from colic, he will often look at his side and bite or kick at his flank or belly. More severe cases will lie down and/or roll, and in some cases, manure production will be decreased or absent. Often horses will improve when walked. If you know the colic is of recent onset and appears mild, you can try walking the horse and see if he improves without veterinary assistance. If it the duration of colic is unknown, or if the colic is more severe and unresponsive to walking, a veterinarian should examine the horse as soon as possible.
Owners can learn to take pulses and to check the horse's gums for signs of dehydration or toxicity. If the horse's heart rate is over 45-50 beats per minute or if the gums are tacky, have a prolonged refill time or are off color, the horse may be dehydrated or toxic and needs immediate attention.
By Erin Malone, DVM, University of Minnesota