With the weather cooling down and the busy show season coming to a close, we're entering the time of colourful leaves, family gatherings and cozy evenings by the fire. However, fall is also the season when calls to veterinarians for colic increases.
Rather than a disease of its own, colic is a sign of stomach pains in horses, and it can be caused by several factors. It is worth your time to learn the various causes and all the ways you can prevent it in your horses. Although there is no way to prevent all cases, there are precautions you can take to decrease the chances as well as the suffering when it does occur.
I reached out to our friends at Equine Guelph, the resource centre at the University of Guelph dedicated to the health and well-being of horses. They offer a wealth of helpful information and tools for all of us horse enthusiasts. As a Risk Manager for thousands of horse mortality and medical insurance files, here are my top five tips from Equine Guelph to prevent colic during fall and winter:
Keep an eye out for poisonous plants.
Due to grass supply diminishing during colder weather, hungry horses are more likely to seek out other types of food and may accidentally ingest poisonous plants. Pay close attention to what your horses are consuming and ensure they are well-fed with grass or hay. Inspect your pastures and clean out weeds to reduce the risk.
Make the transition from moisture-rich pastures to dried hay gradually.
A sudden diet change can increase the risk of colic. The guts of horses typically require approximately two weeks to adjust.
Maintain a constant supply of fresh, clean water.
Due to dry grass and increased hay intake, your horse may require more hydration in the fall and winter. Make sure they have clean, fresh water 24 hours a day, and keep a close eye on the behaviour of your horses to ensure they can all easily access it. In small paddocks, one horse may be blocking other horses from getting to food and water sources.
Monitor the water temperature.
Provide heated water on cold nights. Watch the amount of water consumed so you can respond accordingly if their consumption decreases.
Consult your veterinarian about fecal testing and parasite control.
Heavy infestations of worms or parasites can lead to severe colic in horses. Take preventative measures as instructed by your veterinarian to avoid putting your horses through deworming treatment as much as possible.
As one last extra tip, take a look at CapriCMW's EquiCare suite of insurance products, designed by equine insurance specialists that have been protecting horse enthusiasts and industry professionals for over 20 years.
Mike King is a Partner and Equine Industry Leader at CapriCMW. As a lifelong horseman, he is a national figure in this specialized field and has been an equine specialist in the insurance industry since 1993.
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