Ask the Vet: Colic

Question: The stable where I board my horse has very sandy pastures. The horses are in a dry lot for all months except a few in the summer when the grass is tall enough. Is it a good idea to give my gelding a 7-day dose of a sand-clearing supplement like Arenus Assure Plus (a pelleted psyllium based feed additive with synbiotics and controlled release digestive aids. This patent pending pelleted combination of psyllium and digestive aids removes all of the sand and silt from the large colon)? On the other days of the month, I give him just the regular Arenus Assure (a granular daily feed additive with psyllium and synbiotics that improves the environment of the colon and improves normal digestive processes). I feel these are good preventative steps – as I have already lost a horse to sand colic. Do you feel this is a safe plan?

Answer: Sand colic is a difficult type of colic since horses tend to ingest sand when eating from the ground. The only way to prevent sand colic is to prevent sand intake. Feeding inside a barn or on a mat can reduce sand intake. Since this may be difficult in your situation, a one week course of psyllium is a good idea. I tend to have horses fed psyllium for one week a month and then have no psyllium for the following three weeks. This seems to prevent horses from obtaining the ability to digest psyllium, which is possible if fed psyllium constantly. For the products you are looking at, they both have psyllium in them so I would want to ensure that the Plus version has more psyllium than the other version. I might also try to find a supplement without psyllium that can be fed daily and add the psyllium for one week per month. Also, I do not think there is a  feed supplement that can remove all psyllium from the colon despite the label claims. If a product worked that well, then we would recommend it to all horses. At this time, intermittent psyllium seems to be the best way to prevent a large buildup of sand in the colon.

Question: Why is it so important to not let a horse with colic roll? 

Answer: This is a very common question. It is important to not let a horse with colic roll since they can injure themselves when they are rolling. The rolling rarely causes the intestine to move into an incorrect position but is a sign of the pain caused by the abnormal position of the intestines. If the horse is trying to roll, I recommend walking them to distract them from the pain and possibly relieve the cramping from the colic. Walking can also help the gastro-intestinal tract expel gas, which may relieve the colic pain. If the horse is sitting or lying quietly, the horse can be left alone until the veterinarian arrives to examine him. If the horse is uncontrollable and trying to roll, everyone needs to stay out of the way so they are not hurt by the painful horse.