Treating Colic at the EMC
When a horse shows signs that he’s experiencing abdominal pain, he’s described as suffering from “colic.” The causes of colic are quite varied and can be attributed to a simple case of gas or to a serious problem such as a twisted intestine that requires surgical correction.
Fortunately, only about 2% of all horses with colic require surgery but it can be hard to differentiate between the simple and serious colic. When surgery is needed, however, early intervention is crucial; it can literally mean the difference between life and death for the horse. Early referral gives the experts at the EMC the best chance to save your horse and start the road back to health.
Click on a thumbnail image to view a larger image.
- Dr. Nat White is a world-renowned expert in colic and recently co-authored the definitive text on colic, The Equine Acute Abdomen.
- Whether administering fluid therapy or performing corrective surgery, experienced faculty and highly trained staff at the Equine Medical Center are equipped and ready to treat horses with colic.
- We offer 24/7 critical care and post-operative support with hourly monitoring to minimize surgical complications and give your horse the best chance for complete recovery.
Recommendations from our experts
- Bring your horse to the Equine Medical Center at the earliest opportunity. Early referral gives your horse the best chance for recovery and reduces the cost of treatment.
- The decision for surgery is best made at the hospital where our faculty clinicians and specially trained staff can thoroughly evaluate your horse.
- The symptoms for colic vary widely depending on the cause and the individual horse’s temperament and tolerance for pain. Some problems within the gastrointestinal tract cause significantly more pain than others; there are some types of colic where it seems the horse is fine one minute and in significant pain the next. Our colic experts have the skill and experience to provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment protocol.
- Colic: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Prevention (PDF) by Dr. Nat White
- Equine Colic: Making the decision for referral and what happens at the referral facility (PDF) by Dr. Nat White
- Current Use of Analgesics for Colic (PDF) by Dr. Nat White
- Intra-abdominal conditions causing colic: How they alter normal physiology and why they result in pain (PDF) by Dr. Nat White
- Internationally recognized equine expert authors comprehensive book on equine colic
- The gastrointestinal tract of performance horses: medical, nutritional and surgical considerations (PDF) co-authored by Dr. Nat White
In an emergency
- If your horse appears to be suffering from colic or if your family veterinarian has diagnosed colic, call us at (703) 771-6800 to alert us of the estimated time of your arrival at the Equine Medical Center.
- We will need to know the type and quantity of drugs that have already been administered and the time they were given, if possible.
- We also need to know the owner's name and contact information, and the patient's information: name, sex, color, and breed.
- Follow the EMERGENCY signs lining our driveway and park in the large parking lot at the end of the paved road. Please leave your horse on the trailer and come into the admissions office to check in.
- Our staff will greet you, ask you to review the patient and owner information, and have you sign the authorization for treatment. The doctors will be alerted of your arrival. They will come and introduce themselves to you and help you unload your horse, if needed.
- If you have an emergency after hours (from 5:00 pm - 8:00 am, or on the weekend), call our answering service at 1-800-436-2911. State the type of emergency you have and they will ask you for your contact phone number. They will page our doctor on call, and that clinician will call you back within a few minutes.
- When you arrive, please leave your horse on the trailer until you are in contact with a hospital staff member. If a staff member is not there to greet you, go to the large silver garage door next to the admissions office, where there is a buzzer. Please ring the buzzer and a staff member will come to assist you.
- The In Case of Emergency Checklist (PDF) provides a good overview of what you should bring to the EMC in the event of a medical emergency.
- View the Client Care Packet (PDF) to learn more about the facilities, services, staffing, and policies at the EMC.
Scholarly research by EMC faculty members
Faculty members at the Equine Medical Center have conducted original research and published books and journal articles that have helped advance the study of equine colic. Below is a selection of their publications.
- White NA, Moore JN, Mair T. The Equine Acute Abdomen. 2nd edition, Teton New Media, December 2008.
- Wong DM, Davis JL, White NA. Motility of the equine gastrointestinal tract: Physiology and pharmacotherapy. EVE 2011; 32:88-100.
- White NA, Elward A, Moga KS, Ward DL, Sampson DM. Use of web-based data collection to evaluate analgesic administration and the decision for surgery in horses with colic. Equine Vet J, 2005;37: 347-350.
- Dabareiner RM, White NA, Snyder JR, Feldman BF, Donaldson LL. Effects of Carolina rinse solution, dimethyl sulfoxide, and the 21-aminosteroid, U-74389G, on microvascular permeability and morphology of the equine jejunum after low-flow ischemia and reperfusion. AJVR 2005: 66: 525-532.
- Sullins KE, White NA, Lundin CS, Dabareiner RM, Gaulin G. Prevention of ischemia induced small intestinal adhesions in foals. Equine Vet J. 2004: 36:370-375.
- Lopes MAF, White NA, Crisman MV, Ward DL. Effects of feeding large amounts of grain on colonic contents and feces in horses. AJVR 2004; 65:687.
- Dabareiner RM, White NA, Donaldson LL. Evaluation of Carolina Rinse solution as a treatment for ischemia reperfusion of the equine jejunum. Eq Vet J 2003 Nov; 35(7): 642-6.
- Young BL, White NA, Donaldson LL, Dabareiner RM. Treatment of ischaemic equine jejunum with topical and intraluminal Carolina Rinse. Equine Vet J 2002; 34:469-474.
- Lopes MAF, White NA. Parenteral nutrition for horses with gastrointestinal disease: A retrospective study of 79 cases. Equine Vet J, 2002; 34:250-257.
- Dabareiner RM, Sullins KE, White NA, Snyder JR. Serosal injury in the equine jejunum and ascending colon after ischemia-reperfusion of intraluminal distention and decompression. Vet Surg, 2001;30(2):114-125.
- Traub-Dargatz JL, Kopral CA, Seitzinger AH, Garber LP, Forde K, White NA. National estimate of the incidence of colic in U.S. horses and operation level risk factors for colic in 1998-1999. JAVMA 2001; 219:67-71.
- Dabareiner RM, White NA, Donaldson LL. Effects of intraluminal distention and decompression on the microvascular permeability and hemodynamics of the equine jejunum. AJVR, February 2001:62(2):225-36.
All EMC faculty have extensive experience in treating horses with colic.