Equine Colic

The horse is an animal that is very sensitive to nutritional problems and among them colic stands out for its frequency and severity.

It is clear that there are a number of factors that predispose to the presentation of colic in horses. For example, the sudden access to elevated feed intake, stress, the changes on meals schedules, intense work after food intake, prolonged work, dentitions impeding chewing properly, and a large etcetera.

Nevertheless, one of the issues that is most frequent in the etymology of colic is the insufficient amount of supplied quality forage and consequently an excessive intake of fodder or concentrated nutrients or also a high amount of forage consumption. Other reasons can be long and tiring work, the consumption of cold water or an excessive consumption of green grass. It is necessary to take into account the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the horse, bearing in mind that it is an herbivorous animal but with a unique, small and weak stomach, and a highly developed large intestine.

Other important feature related with the physiology of the horse is the performance of a thorough chewing that can last up to 40 minutes during the ingestion, making 3500 masticatory movements before eating a kilo of hay in order to achieve, with lateral and vertical movements of its jaws, particles of 1.50 mm. Thus the horse ingests the hay without problems although it takes the production of up to 12 litres of saliva per day.

The transit of the alimentary bolus through the stomach is fast but with the feature that the horse cannot have any regurgitation; that is the horse lacks the possibility of vomiting, which is linked to an intensive secretion of gastric juice that can exceed 10 litres a day.

On the other hand, intestinal digestion is intense, with a wide microbial activity in the caecum, which has a capacity of about 30 litres.

For these reasons, the digestive transit is slow and can take 37 hours for hay and 28-34 hours for concentrated feed.

I.e., digestion in the small intestine of the horse is similar to that produced in other monogastric animals (pigs for example), but digestion in the large intestine has a resemblance with the ruminants due to the important fermentation processes that occur in the caecum.

In the large intestine it is necessary, for proper operation, the presence of crude fibre since it increases the production of volatile fatty acids, which improves the degradation of carbohydrates and favours the synthesis of amino acids and vitamins.

This special intestinal functionality makes the horse very prone to colic. Not being able to create gastric reflux, intestinal contractions are strong and powerful and they are aggravated by cold (environmental, cold water), bad chewing (importance of teeth) and, especially, the intake of fibre.

An excess of fibre, as well as reducing digestibility of feed, can generate colic; but at the same time its deficiency results in a paralysis of bowel movements, with appearance of abnormal fermentation and, of course, also colic.

Crude fibre intake mismatches easily result in the so-called colic due to obstruction, colic due to an excessive fermentation of intake (tympanisms), and colic as a result of increasing intestinal spasmodic contractions.

The quality of provided forage, its supply of fibre according to the period of mowing, the quality of its dehydration or processing, its relationship and balance with the starches in the portion of concentrated feed, are important factors in the emergence of this fearsome disease.

The supply of hay and concentrates of high quality within a balanced mixing process, ensuring a good relationship between crude fibre and carbohydrates of a final intake, are essential conditions to minimize the presentation of colic in horses.

Therefore, it is recommended the supply of a complete and balanced fodder that provides appropriate levels of crude fibre, along with energy and protein, minerals and vitamins. This ensures not only the maximum performance of the animal in its sporty look or working levels, but the prevention of colic and other frequent disorders always difficult to treat.

MEGAHORSES, S.L offers a line of products that constitutes a full high quality feed with a high content of fibre to ensure an optimum intestinal transit and that is low in starch. They are feeds that contain all the necessary nutrients to meet the needs of the horses. Therefore, these products reduce in a high percentage the risk of colic and other intestinal diseases.