Sand Colic in Horses

Updated July 27, 2023 | By: Dr. Lydia Gray
A roan horse eating hay in a sandy paddock

What is Sand Colic in Horses?

Colic is any pain in the abdomen. Sand colic is pain specifically caused by a build-up of sand in the large colon.

Signs of sand 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
  • elevated heart and respiratory rates

Some horses with sand colic develop diarrhea because the sand rubs the lining of the GI tract, causing inflammation.

Treatment and Prevention

Call a veterinarian right away if a horse shows any of the signs listed above. Most sand colic cases respond to medical treatment alone, which consists of pain relievers, fluids to hydrate the horse, and laxatives such as psyllium to help move the sand out of the GI tract. If the horse does not improve, surgery may be necessary.

How to Prevent Sand Colic in Horses

horse eating hay in sandy paddock

Anyone keeping a horse on sandy ground needs to take special precautions to help prevent this particular form of colic. Hay should not be fed on the ground but rather on mats or elevated feeders with mats underneath them. Horses should only be allowed to graze pastures with solid plant growth, and they should be turned out after feeding so they are not as hungry.

Psyllium seed husk may be added to the diet to help prevent the build-up of sand in the colon, and appears to work better when combined with pre- and probiotics. Continue learning by reading our article on equine colic and digestive health.

Ask the Vet Video on Avoiding Sand Colic

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.