Impaction Colic

By: Dr. Lydia Gray

What is it?

Colic is any pain in the abdomen. Impaction colic is pain caused by feed material obstructing or blocking the GI tract. Signs of impaction colic can be the same as any other kind of colic: pawing, looking at the belly, lying down and getting up, rolling, not eating or drinking, not passing manure, sweating, depression, and elevated heart and respiratory rates.

What can be done about it?

Call a veterinarian right away if a horse shows any of the signs listed above. Most impaction colics respond to medical treatment alone, which consists of pain relievers, fluids to hydrate the horse, and laxatives to soften the impaction and help move it along. If the horse does not improve, surgery may be necessary.

What else do I need to know?

Impaction colics may be caused by several things, all leading to decreased gut movement: poor quality forage, too much grain, stall confinement, transport, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, bad teeth, parasites and any sudden changes to the routine. Owners should take these steps to try and prevent impaction colic:

  • Feed high-quality hay that is not too mature and hard to digest
  • Feed small meals frequently instead of large meals once or twice a day
  • Feed as little grain as possible
  • Provide plenty of clean, fresh water at all times
  • Provide electrolytes to stimulate drinking and replenish any losses
  • Provide preventive care including deworming and dental work
  • Make any changes to diet, exercise or stabling gradually
Read more about colic and digestive health in our Equine Colic article

SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse's health. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational.