Change in weather and increased risk of Colic

With the changing weather and cold temperatures coming, changes in your horse’s routine and eating habits can occur which can predispose them to colic. Colic is a symptom of stomach or intestinal pain. There are many causes of this potentially deadly problem. Water that is too cold, decreased exercise, grazing on poor quality grasses, or dry, coarse, baled hay are all things that can lead to digestive issues or colic.

When changing forage sources, try to take 2 weeks to gradually transition even with different types of hay. With the drier grass in the field and the tendency to feed more grain in the winter, decreased water consumption can increase the chances of impaction colic. Horses tend to slow down on their water intake if it is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Horses need to drink at least 10-12 gallons of water a day. Now is the time of year to be sure all of your water heaters for your tanks and buckets are working properly. If any extension cords are used, insure that they are in good condition. Every year we hear of barn fires due to faulty wiring or the use of heaters in barns. You should also watch out for poisonous plants, as horses may eat things they ordinarily would not when there is less grass in the field. Plants to watch out for include Wild Cherry and Red Maple trees as well as plants in the Night Shade family. Your extension agent can be called to identify any questionable plants.

Know how to check your horse’s hydration by pinching the skin on his neck or checking the gum capillary refill time. Any of our veterinarians are happy to show you how to do this with your fall visits. If you notice a decreased amount of manure, drier than normal manure, or decreased water consumption, you may need to figure out a way to get more water into your horse’s digestive tract. Adding water to your feed, providing soaked beet pulp, alfalfa pellets or cubes, or even just soaking your hay for 10 minutes are all ways to do this.

Be sure to have a good parasite prevention program. We currently recommend fecal tests and strategic deworming depending on your horse’s individual results.

Remember, as the cold weather sets in, provide extra hay to help heat your horse
as hay is more efficient than grain. Horses need 1.5 to 2.0% of their body weight
in hay or forage, ie.) 15 – 20lbs for a 1000lb horse.

The staff and veterinarians care about the health and well being f your horses.
Please call if you have any questions regarding the care of your horse.


SmartPak has now partnered with equine veterinarians to provide colic insurance
for horses from 5 months of age to 28 years old. The program requires routine
physicals, dental exams, and vaccinations by your veterinarian. All of our
wellness programs offer this or we can satisfy the requirements with annual visits
and our deworming programs. The good news is that SmartPak offers $7,500.oo
of colic surgery reimbursement with year round daily administration of
SmarkDigest Ultra which helps maintain a healthy hindgut. Please contact us if
you wish to enroll in the program.

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