Managing Impaction Colic Caused by Abdominal Tumors (from AAEP Ask the Vet)

I have a 23 year old appaloosa mare who has problems with chronic colic. She has always had problems with this (for the past 10 years) but it has really escalated lately. She goes through spurts where she colics with an impaction every 2 weeks (for which we always call the vet out for). She currently has problems with her protein levels (Total Protein and Albumin) being low and has a borderline low-level hematocrit. She has been worked up by our veterinary teaching hospital, and while they cannot find a reason for her impactions in her large intestine they did find what looks like a pedunculating lipoma hanging on her small intestine and narrowing one section, that is, in essence, the ticking time bomb that we didn’t know about. I want her to be as happy and as comfortable for as long as possible.

Currently she gets 2 lbs of Purina Equine Senior soaked four times a day (they recently cut out her second cutting hay because the hay fibers look too large in her manure which they think might be causing her problems, even though everyone says her teeth are excellent and she is evaluated and floated every year). Supplement wise she gets Cosequin ASU, Probios powder, Red Cell and Accel Lifetime. I also add 1 oz of table salt to her senior feed 3x per day and she gets monthly Adequan injections. She has a heated water bucket at night and is turned out for 14 hours a day (although right now there is still really no grass). She is fecal floated every 6 weeks to check for parasites and dewormed as needed (every few floats she’ll have 1-2 strongyle eggs per slide) I also check her for sand when she is fecal floated as well. Is there anything else you would add to her diet? Jamie

Dear Jamie,

Let me explain to everyone what a pedunculated lipoma is, then comment on your mare’s specific nutrition and supplements. Although on the whole, your program sounds excellent!

A lipoma is a benign fatty tumor. A pedunculated lipoma is a fatty tumor on a stalk hanging in the middle of the abdomen. It can cause intermittent episodes of colic by obstructing the small intestine or severe colic by wrapping tightly around a loop of intestine, shutting off blood supply as well as stopping the flow of food material. This second scenario is a serious form of colic that can only be corrected through surgery. It certainly sounds like the veterinary teaching hospital you’re working with is on the right track with their diagnosis.

Horses most at risk for pedunculated lipomas are older horses (the average age is 16 years), geldings and ponies. In addition, obesity is considered a risk factor as the fatty tumor starts as localized plaques of fat that coalesce, or enlarge and grow together.

While there’s nothing at this point that you can do to shrink the fatty tumor or prevent it from one day possibly strangulating a portion of bowel, you have already taken steps to reduce her risk of impacting. That is, you have begun to switch from long-stem forage to a more digestible complete feed for older horses. And, you are making this into a slurry that should be even easier to get past a narrowed section of intestine. Ask your veterinarian if you should take her totally off hay and only give the complete feed. If you do, you’ll have to feed the recommended amount on the bag–around 15 pounds per day–since this is all the nutrition she’ll be getting.

A probiotic is a good idea, and there’s no reason she can’t continue to receive a joint supplement. Providing salt is a good way to make sure she drinks plenty and stays hydrated, another way to prevent an impaction. The Red Cell is for her anemia, I assume. Once she goes on the full amount of complete feed, she may not need the multi-vitamin/mineral supplement any longer, however. You have a sensible parasite control program, as additional inflammation or scarring in the intestinal tract is the last thing your mare needs right now. In fact, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about putting her on a daily dewormer.

It sounds to me like you’re doing everything you can to help your mare stay happy and comfortable as long as possible. She’s lucky to have such a conscientious owner!

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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