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Preventing Colic In Horses

May 16, 2023

Few things can strike fear into the heart of an equestrian the way the word ‘colic’ does. Colic, as you may know, is one of the leading causes of death in horses. There are many different kinds of colic, with the main three ones being gas colic, spasmodic colic, and impaction colic. While there’s no way to completely guarantee that your horse will never get colic, there are things you can do to lower the odds. You’ll read some key ones in this article from Hassayampa Veterinary Services, your veterinarian in Wickenburg, AZ, and the surrounding communities.

Feeding Practices

Sandy ground is definitely not uncommon in these parts, and it can cause or contribute to colic. Use hay racks to feed your equine friend. You may also want to put rubber mats below the racks, so your horse can nibble up dropped scraps without ingesting as much sand. Make dietary changes slowly, and check with your vet before offering rich or sweet feed.


Spending too much time indoors isn’t any better for Silver than it is for us. Horses are naturally always on the move, whether they are grazing, moving away from danger, or just running around. Make sure your horse is getting suitable exercise and turnout time.

Dental Care

Horses’ teeth often get uneven over time. If this isn’t addressed, it will lead to trouble chewing, which will in turn lead to trouble digesting. Have Silver’s teeth examined regularly, and floated as needed.

Soaking Hay

This can help prevent episodes in horses that are prone to developing impaction colic. Soaking hay can help in two ways: it increases water intake, and also softens the hay for easier chewing. That said, it may not be the right option for every horse. Ask your vet for specific advice.


Gut health can play a role in colic, so it stands to reason that improving gut health can reduce the risk of colic. However, it’s best to check with your vet before offering probiotics, or any other supplement.


Keep a close eye on Silver! This won’t prevent colic, but may help you catch it early, which can make a huge difference. Red flags include sweating, nipping at flanks, restlessness, isolation, and unusual behavior.

Our Advice on Preventing Colic In Horses in 2024

How can feeding practices help prevent colic in horses?

Feeding practices play a crucial role in preventing colic in horses. In areas with sandy terrain, like Arizona, using hay racks and placing rubber mats underneath can significantly reduce sand ingestion, a common colic contributor. Additionally, gradual dietary changes and consulting a veterinarian before introducing rich or sweet feeds are essential to maintain gut health. These strategies help minimize the risk of various colic types, supporting overall equine well-being. For tailored advice and comprehensive horse care, consider visiting Hassayampa Veterinary Services in Wickenburg, AZ.

Should you give your horse probiotics to prevent colic, and if so, how do you decide?

Probiotics can enhance gut health, potentially reducing colic risk in horses by promoting a balanced digestive environment. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Before integrating probiotics into your horse’s regimen, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian. They can assess your horse’s specific health needs and dietary requirements, ensuring the supplementation is beneficial. This approach ensures that any addition to your horse’s diet, including probiotics, is tailored to their unique needs, optimizing health and minimizing colic risk.

How often should a horse’s teeth be examined and floated to minimize digestive issues?

Horse teeth can develop uneven wear over time, leading to chewing and digestive problems. To minimize these issues, it’s recommended that horses have their teeth examined and floated (filed to remove sharp points) at least annually. Some horses may require more frequent care depending on their age, diet, and overall dental condition. Regular dental check-ups ensure optimal chewing efficiency, promoting better digestion and reducing the risk of digestive issues, including colic.

Are there any natural supplements besides probiotics that might be helpful for gut health and potentially reduce colic risk?

Besides probiotics, other natural supplements can support gut health and potentially reduce colic risk in horses. Prebiotics, which feed beneficial gut bacteria, and digestive enzymes that aid in breaking down feed more efficiently are notable examples. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in flaxseed or fish oil, can also support anti-inflammatory processes in the gut. However, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian before adding any supplements to your horse’s diet. This ensures compatibility with the horse’s specific health needs and dietary requirements, optimizing gut health while minimizing colic risk. For expert advice, visiting a local veterinarian, such as those in Wickenburg, AZ, is recommended.

Beyond the behavioral signs, are there any physical signs a horse owner should be aware of to identify colic early?

Beyond behavioral signs, horse owners should be vigilant for physical indicators of colic to catch it early. These include a lack of appetite, absence or decrease in fecal production, and changes in gum color to pale or dark red, which suggest distress. An increased heart rate and signs of dehydration, such as a skin tent test showing poor elasticity, are critical indicators. Early detection is vital to effectively managing colic, so observing these physical signs alongside behavioral changes can make a significant difference in outcomes. For concerns or guidance, they consult with a veterinarian.

Please contact Hassayampa Veterinary Services, your veterinarian in Wickenburg, AZ, and the surrounding communities, for questions about horse care. We’re here to help!

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