A Tale of Two Colics

A Tale of Two Colics

Tuesdays with Tony

This week I’m going to do a rare thing for a cat…I’m going to express approval. I’m giving a gold star to Springhill’s client, Kathy, who knows just how to handle something all horse owners will have to deal with at some point. A few weeks ago, Kathy’s horses Haley and Saratoga both had an episode of colic within a few days of each other. Don’t worry, they’re both fine now.

Both of Kathy’s horses are on the Springhill Wellness plan, so my docs know their routine healthcare is up to date, and Kathy doesn’t have to pay an extra emergency fee if she has an after-hours emergency. My docs were so impressed with how Kathy handled both colic episodes that I decided to talk about what she did right in these situations.


The first colic was Kathy’s gelding Haley. Haley, who is 17, has had several mild colic episodes over the years, despite Kathy’s good care and appropriate feeding. Because of this, Kathy has a plan in place for Haley. The morning of his colic, Kathy saw him laying down quietly and less interested in his breakfast than usual. She gave the clinic a call as soon as she noticed he was uncomfortable to discuss what she saw with my docs. She took Haley’s heart rate, which was normal at 38 beats per minute, and reported it to us. My docs talked with Kathy about the signs Haley was showing and agreed that it was a mild colic that Kathy could monitor. After checking with my docs, Kathy gave the recommended dose of banamine by mouth. She then monitored Haley carefully throughout the day. She held him off feed but encouraged him to drink water. She checked his comfort and kept a close eye on how much manure he passed and how much water he drank. She updated the clinic throughout the day on Haley’s status. If needed, we were all ready to change plans and make a visit to Kathy’s farm to treat the colic. Fortunately, Haley felt better quickly and was back to his normal self without needing any more treatment.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic


The second episode was Kathy’s 30-year-old mare Saratoga. Because of her age, and the fact that she’s never colicked before, Kathy knew that Saratoga should be examined by one of my docs. Saratoga was showing more pronounced colic signs than Haley – she was down and rolling – and Kathy called the clinic as soon as she found her. One of my docs immediately headed out to examine Saratoga. She performed an ultrasound exam and a trans-rectal palpation to determine the cause and severity of Saratoga’s colic. Saratoga had a mild large colon impaction, not uncommon in times when the weather is changing. My doc passed a nasogastric tube to re-hydrate Saratoga and administered some IV medications to help her through her discomfort. Fortunately, Saratoga’s colic was a type that could be managed on the farm and wouldn’t require hospitalization or surgery. My doc suggested that Kathy offer Saratoga a bucket of water flavored with a handful of grain to encourage her to drink and help break up the colon impaction. Kathy monitored Saratoga carefully throughout the day and hand-walked her for 5-10 minutes every hour to encourage intestinal movement. The mare stayed comfortable and regained her appetite, though she was allowed only very limited food until she started passing normal manure. Kathy was joyously mucking lots of manure out of the stall the next morning and Saratoga was back to her normal self!

What Kathy did right:

  • Called the clinic as soon as she noticed the colic
  • Gave banamine only after discussing it with her vet and being told the correct route and dose
  • Knows how to take a heart rate
  • Has her vet out when it’s recommended that a visit is necessary to provide treatment
  • Monitored her horse’s comfort, manure production, and water consumption
  • Updated the clinic on her horse’s status after the visit
  • Has her horses on the Springhill Wellness Plan so she never needs to pay an emergency fee

Are you prepared to handle this situation purrrfectly like Kathy did? If you’re not sure, give my docs a call! They are always happy to talk about measures you can take to prevent colic, and to help you deal with it if it occurs.

Until next week,


P.S. If you want to learn way more about colic than I’m willing to write down for you (cats have limited willingness to type) you have to listen to the recent podcast episode the humans did about colic. You can find it on the Podcast Page up in the menu bar, or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Trust me, it’s worth a listen.

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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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.