Dealing with Colic Pains (from AAEP Ask the Vet)

My horse is experiencing colic pains almost every 6 months. Our vet is supplementing him with enzymes but says that this is not something to be used forever. Can you recommend something which we can use as a supplement to avoid this problem, something natural or homeopathic? PG

Dear PG,
There are a number of supplements that come to mind when asked a question like this. Changing hay and grain (gradually) and seeing if that prevents these bouts of colic is also an option. However, I strongly encourage you to try to get to the bottom of your horse’s colic first. That is, work with your veterinarian through a series of questions and diagnostic tests to determine if sand, enteroliths, parasites (eg small strongyle emergence), ulcers, dehydration, change in pasture or feed, or other medical or seasonal issue could be the cause.

If you cannot identify a trigger factor, and you feel your horse is getting appropriate forage, vitamins and minerals either in grain or a supplement, water, turnout and preventive care (eg deworming), then you may want to begin experimenting with supplements across several categories to see if any help. I recommend trying one supplement at a time though, rather than several at once, because then you won’t know for sure which supplement helped. During these trials, keep detailed notes about any changes in your horse that you notice.

The first category you may want to start with is a daily dewormer. If inflammation caused by parasite migration is the root of your horse’s intermittent colic, then feeding pyrantal tartrate every day may be of benefit.

The next category of supplementation could be with psyllium. A paper in the Feburary 2008 issue of the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science entitled “Fecal Sand Clearance is Enhanced with a Product Combining Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Psyllium in Clinically Normal Horses” suggests such products may be an effective prophylactic treatment for sand enteropathy and sand colic in which management alone is not sufficient to prevent intestinal sand accumulation.

If you would like to try probiotics (the good bugs) and prebiotics (food for the good bugs) alone, there are a variety of products on the market from which to select. Because it has been shown that different strains of probiotics (such as Lactobacillus, Enterococcus, Aspergillus and others) work differently, try to find a product with more than one strain.

There are a couple of products in the digestive category of supplements that have been shown to stabilize colon pH, decreasing the risk of hindgut acidosis which can lead to colic (and laminitis). Yea-Sacc contains the yeast Saccharomyces cereviseae while EquiShure contains a time-released hindgut buffer. Another product, Succeed, is described as a complete digestive conditioner for the entire GI tract, and contains polar lipids, beta-glucans, glutamine, threonine, nucleotides and yeast.

If you and your veterinarian aren’t able to pinpoint the exact cause of the colics, then maybe one of these supplements will help. I wish you and your horse the best of luck!

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in G.I. Conditions

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