Recurrent bouts of colic can be very stressful for horse owners. A thorough clinical examination, combined with an in-depth history taking, is vital. A comprehensive history-taking comprising recent worming history, diet, changes in diet, changes to pasture and pasture-management are all very useful. Baseline laboratory information including blood chemistry, haematology, worm egg counts, tapeworm ELISA (via blood sample) and faecal occult blood testing may all prove useful, especially when dealing with an intermittent condition. Rectal biopsies and oral glucose tolerance tests can also be performed when required.
Colic examination may include rectal ultrasound, including ultrasound of the bladder and ovaries. Bladder stones (uroliths), cystitis, ovarian cysts and ovarian tumours can all produce signs of colic. Abdominal paracentesis samples (belly taps) are sometimes taken. Fluid obtained can help determine the pathological process involved.
It is important to look at the whole animal as clinical signs, such as weight loss or ‘quidding’, may dictate the next stage of an investigation. Poor dentition, and subsequent alterations in mastication (the horse’s ability to chew food) can lead to repeated bouts of colic