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UT Animal Science Dept. Reports Diet and Management Associated With Colic In Horses

by Dr. Fredrick Harper
With summer picnics and family gathers, someone's likely to get a stomach ache after eating too much, the same thing occurs with horses. Horses are prone to colic, the general term used for a pain a horse has in its unique digestive tract. A study from Texas A & M University indicates that several dietary as well as management factors, tend to increase the risk of colic in horses. The researchers asked veterinarians to report on one colic case and one non-colic case to determine some of the most frequently observed causes of colic. There were 1,030 pairs of horses (2,060 horses) in the study.

Changes in the diet within the last two weeks were a major cause of colic. Changes might be the amount or type of grain fed or even feeding procedure. Feeding too much grain, changing to a different sweet feed or feeding sooner or later than normal may result in colic.

Changing the type of hay fed, and going from a poorer-quality to a higher-quality hay was also a specific dietary factor that resulted in colic. Poor quality hay is difficult to chew and less digestible, while higher quality hay could result in overeating. It wasn't possible to determine what actually was the reason for this problem.

There are many other factors that lead to colic such as weather changes, and horses that previously had colic problems were more likely to have colic again.

Internal parasites have been advocated as the major cause of colic. This study as well as others have not supported this theory.

Although there are many reasons why colic occurs, there are also many ways to help prevent it. Regular deworming, never keeping horses in stalls more than 12 hours daily, and also an adequate exercise routine at least once a week.

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