Tuesdays with Tony

Preventing Colic during Colic Season

As a cat, there is nothing I love more than sunbathing. The mid 90 degree temperatures of Fall in Florida have been less than ideal for this pastime. However, I am assured cooler temps will arrive one day, and my sunbathing can return to its normal schedule. What has arrived on schedule is decreasing daylight. With shorter days comes slower-growing grass, and with less grass comes hay season. Oh goody. Around the clinic we also call this Colic Season. Being the generous cat I am, I’m going to teach you how NOT to be a part of Colic Season.


Step 1: Go Slow


This is not something you humans are very good at. You are all about the ‘go big or go home’. When you start feeding hay (or even just feeding more hay), patience is key. It’s rather like my sunbathing. You must be patient! If your horse has only been eating pasture, begin by adding 5-7 pounds of hay per feeding. Coastal hay especially should be started slowly. Throwing a bunch of hay at a GI tract that’s been used to green grass is a recipe for an unscheduled visit from my Docs. Add an additional 2-3 pounds of hay every 4-5 days until your horse is leaving some hay behind. Absolutely DO NOT put a roll of coastal hay out until your horse is walking away without finishing their hay.


Step 2: Add some legumes


That would be alfalfa and peanut hay around these parts. These hays are salty, which helps remind your horse to drink. They also have a laxative effect on the GI tract. Both hays bring water into the gut, which helps prevent impactions. Small amounts of these hays does wonders, which is good because both are pretty high in calories. Four to five pounds per day can dramatically reduce the colic risk. As a cat who struggles with his weight, I understand keeping calories down, but a little bit of legume goes a long way!


Step 3: Get water into horse


The. Hardest. Thing. Ever. That saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink,” is the truest thing ever spoken by a human. Luckily humans are (sometimes) smarter than horses. My humans have found that you can feed a horse soup, and get them to eat it, thus making them drink, and they don’t even know it!! Especially when weather changes, but also when it’s a new shipment of hay, or you put a new hay roll out, it’s so unbelievably important to get those dang horses to drink. Get your horse used to eating soaked feed now. That way when it goes from 85 to 35 and back again in 12 hours, you can feed soupy food and know your horse got lots to drink whether they wanted to or not.


Other stuff to avoid colic


We usually talk about electrolytes in the summer to help replenish all the things in sweat, but in winter, electrolytes work great to help stimulate thirst on a cold day. Florida horses are really bad at drinking on those 2 or 3 truly cold days.

Beet pulp is also great at getting water into horses. However, don’t go starting beet pulp on a cold day because it seemed like a good idea that day. Beet pulp gets fermented in the large colon and make a lot of gas. If you want to use beet pulp in the winter, refer back to Step 1: start slow. It’s also important to remember you can add water to any feed, and you can even soak hay. All sneaky ways to get horses to drink!

We all agree cooler weather is amazing. With a few simple steps, you can also keep those beautiful Fall days colic free! Here’s another simple step: scroll down a little more, and subscribe to this blog. That way it will show up in your email!

Want more knowledge about colic? Take the deep dive with Dr. Lacher on our podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth. Episode 2 is loaded with everything you could want to know about colic. You can listen right from our website on your phone or computer, or you can subscribe anywhere you download podcasts.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic


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 SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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