Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Preventing winter colic - by Dr. E. Kellon, DVM

Winter is a high risk season for colic. Fortunately, this is largely related to factors you can control with careful management.
Impaction colic is particularly common and a major cause is dehydration.

A 1000 pound horse has a minimum daily water requirement in winter of an average of 6 gallons or one and a half 4 gallon stall buckets.  It is critically important to meet this minimum, but not always easy.

Begin by making sure the horse takes in at least 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of salt every day. If the horse refuses to free choice salt, you can add some to feed, dissolve it in water and spray on hay or dissolve and syringe it in. After a few days of salt intake many horses will begin to take it in voluntarily.

Heated or insulated water buckets/troughs are an excellent investment. Serving water warm makes it more palatable and also keeps it from freezing longer. If you don't have hot water at the barn, get an inexpensive heating coil or bring boiled water with you in a thermos or cooler. It's worth the effort.

Water intake can also be boosted by wet meals. Warm beet pulp is especially good because it soaks up  four times its weight in water. Pellets can also be soaked and many commercial feeds contain enough beet pulp to allow them to soak up water.

Gas colic or spasmodic colic can occur at any time of year, but lowered exercise and borderline hydration can put the horse at higher risk. Further guard against this by never making rapid changes in the diet (an occasional bran mash excepted), including in hays. 

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