Don’t Share Your Feed!

Don’t Share Your Feed!

Whinny’s Wisdoms

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Hi everyone, Whinny here! Halloween’s over but today I want to talk about a really scary thing for your horse’s health. Don’t we have enough things to be terrified of when it comes to horses, you say? Well yes, I agree but we’ve got to add one more. What’s kind of crazy is that a lot of people have never heard of it. Many of you have cattle, chickens, or other farm animals on the property with your horses. Do you know how super dangerous their feed can be if your horse eats any of it? That’s because of ingredients called ionophores, and they can be fatal if even a small amount is ingested. New fear unlocked, right?

What Is An Ionophore?

Ionophores are chemicals that transport ions across cell membranes. They have antimicrobial effects on parasites called coccidia, and so are used as feed additives for cattle, goats, swine, and poultry to improve weight gain and control protozoan infection. There are several kinds of ionophores used in feed, including monensin, lasalocid, salinomycin, narasin, maduramicin, semduramicin, and laidlomycin propionate. Monensin is a the prototypical ionophore and is used extensively in the beef and dairy industries. It’s also known by its trade name, Rumensin.

Why Is It So Bad For Horses?

Here’s the big problem for horse owners – while cattle and poultry can safely ingest relatively high levels of monensin in their feed, for horses, it’s a very different story. Horses are nearly 20 times more sensitive than cattle and 200 times more sensitive than poultry to monensin. The toxic dose for monensin in horses is less than 2.0 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, or about 1 gram for an average sized horse. Why is it so toxic for horses compared to other livestock? We don’t really know.

Whinny Wisdom: What’s good for the goose might be good for the gander, but it’s bad for the horse. When it comes to your animals, not sharing is caring!

 The symptoms of toxicity vary depending on the amount of monensin ingested. Trace amounts may cause a horse to go off his feed, show signs of colic and appear unwell for a few days. Larger amounts will cause a horse to show more serious symptoms within a few hours including colic, weakness, sweating, incoordination, collapse and sudden death.

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The most important result of monensin toxicity is damage to heart muscle. In a healthy heart, ion fluxes of sodium and potassium allow the heart to contract normally with each beat. It’s believed that monensin inhibits sodium and potassium ion transport across the cell membrane, preventing the heart from working properly and leading to cardiovascular collapse. Horses that recover from sublethal poisoning can develop chronic heart failure resulting in exercise intolerance, poor performance, and death. Sometimes horses die very quickly with acute heart failure. Ingestion of a large dose at one time can result in death within a few hours of eating the feed.  In other cases, they may die of heart failure in a few days or even weeks.

How Does It Happen?

Accidental poisonings can occur if there is a mixing error at a feed mill. If the mill makes cattle or poultry feed and ionophore ingredients are accidentally added to horse feed instead, the contaminated product may be distributed to horse farms. However, only a small proportion of poisoning cases are caused by feed mill errors. More commonly, a horse gets access to cattle feed by accident – either eating spilled feed or gaining access to where the feed is stored on his farm. Some owners may simply not realize it’s even a problem and offer it to their horse, assuming that feed that is good for their cattle or chickens is fine to feed to their horse as well.

Can It Be Treated?

Unfortunately, there is no antidote for monensin toxicity. The best thing you can do is to prevent any possibility of your horse getting access to feed made for other species and purchase your horse feed from a reputable company that uses strong quality control measures. If the worst happens though, call your vet immediately. There’s no time to waste here. If the ingestion was recent, your vet will pass a tube into the horse’s stomach and attempt to pump out as much as the feed as she can. She will probably administer mineral oil or activated charcoal to try to reduce absorption of the chemical. Your horse may be put on intravenous fluids for supportive care. The problem is that the toxin acts quickly, sometimes before you are even aware of the ingestion or have called your vet. And unfortunately, once the damage occurs, it is permanent. Even if the horse survives in the short term, damage to the heart muscle may cause heart failure in the future.

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Can You Test For It?

The clinical signs of poisoning can be non-specific, meaning it’s not always obvious that the horse’s sickness is due to ionophores. If multiple horses become sick after starting a new batch of feed, a feed-related toxicity should be suspected. An exam of the horse’s cardiovascular system may give evidence – the heart rate may be abnormally fast or irregular and an ultrasound exam of the heart may show dysfunction. Blood and urine samples should be run to look for abnormal muscle enzyme levels. But there may not be obvious signs that are specific for a diagnosis of ionophore toxicity. The ionophore chemicals themselves break down quickly, meaning they can be difficult to test for in the horse’s body, especially if the ingestion happened several days ago. If contaminated feed is suspected, it is usually easier to test the feed for the presence of ionophores. The suspected feed should be saved for testing, along with all receipts, feed bags, and labels.

So pretty scary, right? And not fun Halloween scary, it’s scary scary. But I really want you to be aware of the risk so you can be super careful about keeping livestock feed far, far, far away from your horses and never have to experience that nightmare.

Until next week,


P.S. There are a ton of great videos over on my YouTube Channel. Have you checked them out? Between the videos and the podcast the humans around here do, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth (which is the biggest horse podcast in the world, if I may toot their horn!) you can get a free graduate degree in horse care just by watching and listening to my docs while you ride or clean stalls. So make sure you’re taking advantage of all these resources!

Whinny’s Wisdoms is the official blog of Whinny the Clinic Mouse at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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More Adventures of the Horse Doctor's Husband
Eating for a Summer (Horse) Body

Eating for a Summer (Horse) Body

Tuesdays with Tony

It’s hot out. I was working on my tan on the driveway at the Clinic the other day, and I could barely lay on the asphalt for 10 minutes. That made it extremely difficult to force the humans to drive around me. Overall not a great experience. It got me thinking about the conversations about eating for summer that go on around here. There are a lot of food conversations that happen at the Clinic, which obviously gets my attention. Most of the horse food conversations are along the lines of feed them less. That’s good basic advice, and we can tweak it to be even more appropriate for really hot weather.

What’s in a Feed?

Let’s start with what’s in feed. I’m going to focus on concentrates, or what you humans commonly call grain. Concentrates have protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Ideally, no matter the season, you are only feeding enough concentrate to cover the things they aren’t getting enough of from roughage. 

Ration balancers are called balancers because they balance the deficiencies of a roughage-based diet. They don’t add a lot of calories, which is great for easy keepers. But some horses need more of a concentrate, like Purina Strategy or Nutrena Safe Choice, to make up the calorie difference between what work is taking out and what they are putting in with hay. Those calories come from protein, carbohydrates, and fats. 

Each of those creates heat when the body uses them for calories. Fat creates the least heat when broken down. This means if it’s summertime and your horse runs hot, consider adjusting the diet to be higher fat (with the help of my Docs of course). Don’t go willy nilly adjusting diets without professional input. 

Vitamins and minerals are really, really important in the summertime. Know another word for some of those minerals? Electrolytes. Sweat is chock full of electrolytes, and horses sure do know how to sweat. A good concentrate provides a solid base of the electrolytes needed to perform that task. More on that in a moment. 

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As a cat, I was not designed to be much of a hind gut fermenter. It’s one of the reasons we very rarely do that most common of horse things: fart. So banal. I can’t even imagine. Don’t even get me started on dog farts. Ugh!!! Anyway, I have gleaned a lot of roughage knowledge living in an equine (and soon to be all the animals) clinic. Roughage is incredibly important to horses. That fermenting hindgut needs it to stay happy. That being said, fermentation causes a pretty significant side effect (besides gas): heat production. 

If you’ve read my extended works, you know I talk a lot about roughage in the winter helping keep horses warm, quality roughage preventing colic, and on and on and on about roughage. I’m about to drop more roughage knowledge on you humans. In the heat of summer many horses will back off hay consumption. They’re smarter than I think! Now I’m not saying a horse can suddenly go to less than the magical 1.5% – 2% of bodyweight per day of hay. What I’m saying is they will very often drop themselves back to that minimum percent all on their own. You may notice more hay in the stall, or left in turnout. 

This is very true of hay, but does not count for grass, and that’s where they make up the difference if given a choice. Horses will increase their consumption of water-filled grass stems. Processing water helps to cool the body by keeping it well hydrated so it can sweat better. Also, fresh roughage, like grass, has less bulk than hay once it gets to the hindgut.

Many of you in my area have access to great pasture and so you may not have noticed a decrease in hay consumption. For those of you who do notice it, there are a few things you can do to help your horse continue to consume all the blessed forage without creating as much heat. First, try using short-stem forage like beet pulp or hay pellets and soaking them in water. That gets them roughage and water, double whammy! You can also try adjusting the type of hay you’re feeding. You may normally feed a lot of alfalfa, but your horse says Orchard is way better in the summer (or vice versa). Be sure the addition or change is gradual, though. No unscheduled visits with my Docs!!


Really, really, really important that your horse gets enough electrolytes in the summer! Horses sweat, and they sweat a lot. This goes along with the gas thing for me: I don’t get it. Sure, my paws may experience a bit of dampness, but I most definitely do not pour buckets of water from my skin. That sweat that’s pouring from the skin is chock full of potassium, sodium, magnesium, and in an oddity of horses, protein. If you’ve ever had a day where you just sweat buckets, then you know you simply don’t feel good when all those electrolytes are depleted. There’s a reason for that: those same electrolytes help your nerves work. 

Humans mainly lose sodium when they sweat, and so plain ol’ salt works to replace most of your losses. Horses, as aforementioned, require a few more items. Most of the commercial electrolyte brands for horses take care of these needs pretty well. If you and your horse are aiming for high level stuff, like grand prix anything or eventing at the FEI levels, then I would recommend you get an equine nutritionist involved to be sure you’ve got all you need. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

The rest of you can go with a scoop (2 ounces) of just about any electrolyte. Again, for most horses, the protein loss is covered by what’s in the concentrate they eat. It’s important to be aware of the need for protein, though, if you’re in a sweat-intensive activity. I find the protein thing kinda cool. Horse sweat contains protein because it needs to get out of the hair coat to the outside world where it can evaporate and do its job. You humans don’t have protein in your sweat because you don’t have all that much hair. Mother Nature is such a great problem solver!


I don’t have much on this subject because it should be obvious. Make sure your horse has access to all the water they want. One great way to unexpectedly see my Docs during the heat of summer is to not provide a good water source. This is a great way to cause a huge impaction colic. That’s all I have to say about that.

Summer is hot. If your horse seems to be feeling it more than most, talk with my Docs. They can help you adjust things to make it all a little more bearable. 

Until next week,


P.S. The newest video is out on my YouTube Channel. It’s all about how to hold your horse for the veterinarian in various situations, and why. It’s a great way to both improve your horse knowledge and your ground skills, another double whammy! You’re welcome. Just make sure you subscribe to the Channel so you get notified when new videos come out!


Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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More Adventures of the Horse Doctor's Husband
Hay, Hay, Hay!

Hay, Hay, Hay!

Tuesdays with Tony

I will never understand how horses find dry grass appealing. And yet, according to my Docs, this is what their diet should be based on. Yuck! Nevertheless, here we are, about to talk about dry grass. I will say I have learned so much about hay over my many years. Allow me to drop some of that knowledge on you in this week’s edition of Tuesdays with Me.


Hay as an Art Form


To start this week’s edition, you should go thank a hay farmer. Boy, is that a tough job. First you need rain, but not too much, and at the right time. You need sunshine for a few days in a row when you cut the hay so it can dry. Then you need a dry place to store it because hay gets made in the summertime, and horses need more hay in the wintertime. You get the idea: hug a hay farmer. It’s not an easy life!


What version of dry grass is best?


Well, this gets complicated. Evaluating your horse’s lifestyle choices is step one. I myself am more of a Pasture Puff sort of guy. I prefer to call it intense supervision from a fixed position, but whatever. If I were a horse, I would need a roughage that was low in calories. Un-buttered popcorn, if you will. I found this cool chart of calories per pound of hay in an article written by Dr. Lori Warren from the University of Florida:

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Now, if I was a high performance horse, I might need something different from my hay. Some of that need might be calories. This would make alfalfa a good choice. Being horses, it’s more complicated than straight up calories.


 The Needs of the Athlete


The athletic horse has things it needs from hay that go beyond calories. Protein is a big deal for these guys. When hard work happens, muscles get tiny tears. It’s a normal part of muscle building. Tendons and ligaments get these same little tears. Even bone gets micro-fractures. It’s all part of building a better athlete. To repair and strengthen all these tissues, the equine athlete needs lots of protein, and a decent amount of minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Since hay should be the biggest part of the diet, it’s important to know where your hay stands on these important ingredients. For example, if you’re feeding alfalfa to your horse you may be able to get fewer calories, protein, and calcium from grain. If you’re feeding the same horse timothy, you may look for a grain with more calories and protein.  There’s a definite balance that needs to happen. That’s why there are equine nutritionists.


The Needs of the Fickle Equine Gut


Non-horse people look at a horse in a field and think things like “How majestic,” and “He’s beautiful.”  Horse people think, “I hope he’s used to all that grass or he’s gonna colic.” This is why roughage is important. Sure, you want bulk, but you also want what makes your particular equine happy. Here in Florida where I live, we have a type of hay called Coastal. It’s a great middle of the road hay. A little higher in calories, a little lower in protein. Locally grown, so the price is right. Unfortunately, the equine GI tract is less happy with straight Coastal. A horse eating nothing but Coastal is very prone to a very specific type of colic called an ileal impaction. Luckily, most of these are readily fixed with a visit from one of my Docs. Even better, they can be prevented by adding a bit of peanut or alfalfa to the diet along with the Coastal. We also see horses who are allergic to different types of hay, with alfalfa being the most common one. These allergies normally make themselves known by causing diarrhea. However, hay allergies can also cause itchiness. Very rarely we have a horse manifest their hay allergy with extreme behavior changes. This is where the Legend that alfalfa makes a horse crazy comes from.


I can hear it now: But Tony, alfalfa really does make my horse crazy. I’m not saying it doesn’t. I’m saying it has more to do with your horse being allergic to the hay than the protein or calorie content of the hay.


What’s the best answer then?


The best answer is going with the highest quality hay you can get away with based on your horse’s lifestyle and calorie needs. Sounds simple, but I know sometimes it’s not easy! Speaking with an equine nutritionist, or one of my Docs, can help you make the best, right decision for your horse, your life, and your area!


Want even more Springhill Equine wisdom? Subscribe to my blog by scrolling down a tiny bit further.

Until next week,


P.S. Have you checked out the completely fabulous Springhill Equine podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth yet? You can listen to it right on my website by clicking here, or you can download it wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t have a podcast app? You can download one free right from the PlayStore. Stitcher and Spotify are both popular, but there are lots of others as well. It’s also on iTunes, for all you Apple people. Episode 8 comes out this week, and it’s all about Lameness. Don’t miss out!

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Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

Sugar, Starch, and Horse Diets

Sugar, Starch, and Horse Diets

Tuesdays with Tony

Two weeks ago we talked about grass and laminitis. Boy, were you guys excited about that topic. I’m going to be super-generous (we cats can be generous, you know) and give you more information on sugar. Come with me on a journey through the weird, wacky world of sugar and starch.

Sugar is sugar, isn’t it?

Nope. There’s sugar and there’s starch. These two things combined are the important number for your horse’s diet. That number is called NSC, or Non-Structural Carbohydrates, by feed companies. NSCs are things that don’t need to be broken down by fermentation in the hind gut, and are rapidly absorbed by the small intestine. Know how you get a kid to run around like a maniac by giving them a lollipop? That’s NSC. In general, you horse people are not looking for your horses to run around like maniacs.

The other problem with NSCs is they turn into fat deposits really quickly. Same thing happens in humans and cats. The body says, oh hey, I have excess food right now, I should store that away in case something bad happens and I need food later. In horses (and humans and cats) some individuals and breeds are better at storing than others. In general, the working breeds (like ponies) and the desert breeds (like Arabians) are really, really good at storage. If you apply some thinking to this, it will make a whole lot of sense. Deserts are not noted for a large amount of food laying around. Working breeds shared food with their owners. The more food either of these types needed, the less desirable they were. As a result, they have been bred for many, many, many generations to be “easy keepers.” On the other hand, think about Thoroughbreds. Historically, no one has cared how much their Thoroughbred ate. They were sports cars. And no one buys a Lamborghini for the gas mileage.

Sugar is bad, then?

It depends. It’s the ultimate answer, really. Appropriate in every circumstance.

NSC’s over 18-20% are less than ideal for the insulin-resistant horse. However, if that insulin-resistant horse is performing, they will need some sugar to perform at their best. You see, sugar is the best readily available energy source. Ever known a crazy human who runs marathons? That carb-loading they do the night before is to make sure they have plenty of quick energy on hand the next morning when they need it. Now, I’m not saying go carb-load your horses, but getting sugar levels too low in a horse who needs to do some serious work can cause them to fizzle when you need them to sizzle. Jumping, bursts of speed, quick starts and stops, all of these require carbs. This means a carefully controlled diet may be needed to get the best performance out of your horse. I will once again mention: Call my minions for help with this. Diet balancing is hard!

What the heck am I supposed to feed then?!?

A lot of factors go into the right choice of feeds for these horses. In general, look for a feed that is pretty low NSC. Triple Crown Senior and ration balancers like Nutrena Topline Balance are good places to start. Forages can be tricky. Alfalfa and peanut are lower in sugar, but lots higher in calories. My minions often work hardest to help you humans come up with a good forage plan for these horses. Luckily they have loads of experience. For extra calories, if they are needed, add fats like vegetable oils. I know, seems weird, but fat doesn’t cause insulin to be released so it’s very, very safe for these horses.

Weather obsession

During the craziness that is Florida Spring and Fall, be very aware of the weather. As I type this, it’s 39 degrees. Last week it was 89 degrees. That beautiful green grass that was high in sugar last week is SUPER high in sugar this morning. This little cold snap has all the grass freaking out. To be sure the plant saves all it’s hard earned sugar, it’s sending it down to the roots. When your horse grabs that grass down close to the ground, he’s getting a delicious bite of grass-flavored lollipop. The schizophrenic weather makes grazing muzzles an absolute must this time of year.

What’s a human to do?

Luckily, we have options! Start by controlling what you can control. Hay analysis will let you know how much sugar is in your hay. Check with your feed manufacturer to find out what the sugar levels are in your horse’s grain. Now you know where you stand on the things you give your horse. By keeping these sugar levels in check, you can allow your horse to graze as much as possible. Diet analysis is not easy. There’s lots of acronyms like EDF and NDF, and starch, and sugar, and fructans, and, on and on. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do any of this alone. I’ve got a minion to help! Call, text, or, live chat from our website and they’ll get you the answers you seek.

Once again, I’m going to tell you to be a good human. Scroll down a wee tiny bit further and click subscribe, right under those two horses in the purple box. Then you’ll see my blog every week no matter where Facebook decides to put it in your news feed. If you’ve already subscribed, then thank you! You get a treat next time you come see me, which should be Thursday at our Parasites and Deworming Seminar.

Until next week ~


sugar and starch

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Office Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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Tuesdays with Tony – Senior Feeding Strategies

Tuesdays with Tony – Senior Feeding Strategies

Garbage in, garbage out, or so I hear from the humans. Here I sit munching on a nice grasshopper. They have a great flavor; I recommend you try them, especially roasted with a bit of salt and pepper! Great nutritional choices like this are what keep this cat in top physical condition. Senior feeding strategies for your horse will keep them running at peak performance, too.


You sang it, didn’t you? I know I did. Then I had images of the movie Shrek play through my head. OK, back on track. You have made wise decisions for your horse’s diet (your own, not so much) and things have been going great. However, as horses get older, their diet needs change, and those changes are very different from the ones humans experience. Doing a very thorough evaluation of body condition score, muscle quality, and diet should be done at least every six months on every horse. (Need help? My minion, Beth, has tons of nutrition experience and can help you formulate a custom plan.  In fact, Wellness Plans include this!) If you notice topline shrinking, maybe the ribs are a little easier (or harder) to find, or eating is taking a long time, it may be time to adjust the diet.

Protein, Protein, Protein

You’ve been monitoring your horse’s condition, and have noticed the muscles on the topline are slowly fading away. Maybe there are fat pads cropping up by the top of the tail and behind the shoulder blades. It’s just plain harder to maintain condition. Protein is the answer. Well, part of the answer, anyway.

We have been well trained not to increase protein for older people and animals, but, as usual, horses are weird. It’s important to remember that basic diets for horses are pretty low in protein, usually around 10-12%, versus cat diets which hover around 30-32% protein. This means adding protein to equine diets is a relative thing. The easiest way to add protein is with a ration balancer. Just about every major feed company makes a ration balancer. Enrich Plus, Triple Crown 30, Equalizer, and Empower Balance are all examples of ration balancers. Adding a pound or two of one of these to every feeding is often all the older guys need.

When do I switch to Senior Feed?

Maybe never. While 15 years old is our guideline for Super Senior, it’s just that: a guideline. Dr. Lacher’s 27 year old horse is still on a “regular” feed, SafeChoice Maintenance. Full on Senior concentrates are best suited for horses with very bad teeth. These diets are designed to meet all the nutritional needs of a horse: grain, roughage, vitamins, and minerals. Most of our Seniors have pretty good teeth which means they can get loads of nutrition from hay. As long as your Super Senior is doing well on a regular diet, there’s no need to switch to senior feed.

If not Senior feed, then what?

Okay, you’re having some trouble maintaining topline, but there’s also some fat pads creeping up beside your horse’s tailhead, and you currently feed SafeChoice Maintenance and coastal hay, along with 4-5 pounds of alfalfa hay.  Oh, and your horse just turned 17 years old.  You ride 3-5 days every week and would put yourself in the moderately in-shape category. Now what?

There’s loads of options out there, but a little tweaking will go a long way here. First, let’s increase the quality and quantity of protein. Dropping back on the amount of SafeChoice Maintenance and adding Empower Balance will increase protein while decreasing calories overall.  Trying this simple change for 30 days, while monitoring body condition, may be all the adjusting that’s needed.  However, if you aren’t satisfied after 30 days, we can tweak the hay choices, or even switch concentrates all together. My point is: You’ve got options and I’ve got minions to help you with those options.

Want even more information? Want my pawtograph? Come out to the Super Senior Seminar April 19th, 2017 at 6:30pm!

See you there!


Tuesdays with Tony-2016: The Year in Colics

Tuesdays with Tony-2016: The Year in Colics

Colics. We see a heck of a lot of them. Now a decent amount of those colics can be attributed to the fairly ridiculous design of the equine GI tract. I mean, honestly, who thought that was a good idea? However, I spent my weekend pouring through the computer to look at colics the Docs saw last year. That’s right, I spend my weekend working. What’s a cat to do when it’s far too windy for civilized folk to be outside but sleep in the sun and play on the computer?

I would like a drum roll here to acknowledge my hard work, so please play one in your head now….

Our Docs saw 318 colics last year. Of those colics, three went to surgery. That’s right, three. Four others needed surgery, but for a variety of very good reasons their owners weren’t able to take them to surgery. I did remove one very specific type of colic from those numbers, but I will explain why later. I’m going to start with the moral of story: Most colics don’t need surgery. There you go. You have the punchline. Now, let’s move on to some helpful guidelines to avoid seeing Dr. Lacher and Dr. Vurgason for… umm… ‘unscheduled opportunities’ to spend money on your horse.

Alfalfa (or peanut). I’m not talking about the bad hair day or the comic strip. I’m talking hay. Feeding coastal hay is very, very strongly associated with an emergency visit from one of my Docs after hours. Coastal hay in a round roll virtually guarantees you will see my Docs for an emergency. If you run out of round bale hay, cold weather moves in, and you put out a new round bale, make sure you throw plenty of alfalfa or peanut hay alongside.  Feeding a minimum of 4-6 pounds of alfalfa or peanut hay daily will go a long way towards preventing this cause.

Be obsessive-compulsive about water.  The old adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink,” exists because it’s so true.  If you even have a doubt about how much water your horse is drinking, get water into them.  How, you ask? Watch this handy video about how to make colic soup for your horse.  Besides colic soup, adding a bit of molasses to the water, or giving them a small amount of salt slurry will entice some to drink up.  Each horse is different; work with your horse to figure out what works best.

Manage your horse’s environment. If your horse is in a sandy area, keeping plenty of roughage going through the system is a great way to prevent sand build-up. Psyllium is also an option here for the horse who needs fewer calories, but hay works better than anything else. For the Fall season, be aware of acorns. Acorns are like cute little field mice for cats: bite size morsels of deliciousness. Too many can lead to gas, and we all know gas can be painful. Acorns are tough to avoid, but our Docs have used muzzles and creative electrical fence configurations to help.

Finally, let me go back to that one particular colic: lipomas.  Lipomas are a fatty tumor that grows in the area of the small intestine in older horses.  It happens in skinny horses and fat horses alike.  Lipomas are associated with age.  They are not because of nutrition, bad or good, management, or any other factor you can control. These tumors are wicked.  They wrap up a section of small intestine much like the bolos used by Gauchos, and strangle it until it dies.  If a small amount of intestine is trapped, and the colic is caught early, surgery can be very successful.  Unfortunately, many of these horses aren’t found for a few hours and by then surgery is very risky, with laminitis a very real risk about 72 hours post surgery.

Colic sucks. There’s no other way to put it. A little work on the diet and a dash of environmental management, and it will suck less. Want help with a diet plan? Contact my trusty minion Beth. She’s super smart when it comes to everything equine nutrition! And now I’m off to supervise the Clinic.