Clients & Visitors

Treating Colic at the EMC


While colic may be brought on by a variety of causes, the EMC is staffed and equipped to help resolve the problem, at any hour of the day, any day of the year.

When a horse shows signs of experiencing abdominal pain, it is 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.

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Our expertise

  • Whether administering fluid therapy or performing corrective surgery, our experienced faculty and highly trained staff 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.

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.

Faculty clinicians

All EMC faculty have extensive experience in treating horses with colic.