Understanding Diet Induced Colic In Horses
👨🏻🔬🐴 There are many causes of colic and it is unfortunately the leading medical cause of death in horses.
Colic refers to pain in a horse’s abdomen typically involving the colon. Mostly the main cause is unknown.
🔬The types of colic other than diet induced includes:
🔺Impaction – sand, dirt, feed or other indigestible material accumulate in the colon. Blocks waste disposal.
🔺Intussusception – the intestine slides like a telescope within a portion of itself, cutting off blood supply and blockage results. Often caused by tapeworms and other parasites.
🔺Gastric rupture – rare and occurs when an impaction reaches the horse’s stomach or gas accumulation dilates the horse’s stomach.
🔺Strangulation – lethal form where a twist forms in the colon or small intestine cutting off blood supply, resulting in tissue death.
🔺Spasmodic colic – The bowel is contracts in an abnormal manner, this results in an “over-active” GI tract that creates painful spasms. Associated with build up of gases and can occur in nervous, highly strung or frightened horses.
💢 Diet Induced Colic
The process in a direct result of overfeeding processed grains and sweet feeds that are high in carbohydrates and sugar.
The stomach and small intestine can only digest up to 2.2kg of grain and sugar at a time and it is the overflow of undigested feed that lowers the pH in the colon and cecum leading to handout acidosis.
Decreased pH in the hindgut (acid increases)
Modifies the healthy microbiome balance and mucosal lining of the colon compromised.
Colonic ulcers and endotoxin release into the blood stream
Blood flow restriction to the colon and small intestine
Colon tissue weakened and death results in blockages
🔬There is significant recent research into showing the connection between feeding horses high amounts grain rich in simple carbohydrates and sugars and the increased risk in the development of colic.
Gas colic is another form which results from the over-fermentation of food in the hindgut, pressure buildup long the gastrointestinal line which causes discomfort.
✳️ Reducing the risk of diet induced colic:
✅ Smaller more frequent meals allows complete digestion of starches and sugars before reaching the hindgut
✅ Increase roughage and fibre sources to aid digestion
✅ Feed salt (typically 50g/day) to activate thirst and always ensure water is available at all times
✅ Provide healthy digestive support supplements to promote a healthier microbiome
✳️ Due to resources and time constraints, the above natural equine management techniques may not be practical, but any improvement to your feed system can help reduce the risk of diet induced colic and help your horse achieve optimum performance.
🖊Written by Bryan Meggitt (BMedSc. PGCrtMedSc.)
Manager and Co-founder of CEN – Complete Equine Nutrition
👨🏻🔬Bryan is a scientist and equine nutrition educator through the nutrition principles of Dr Juliet Getty and Dr Eleanor Kellon.
Bryan is passionate about improving equine health through proper natural nutrition according to science.
He believes a horse should be fed according to their physiology and nutrition is absolutely fundamental for optimum health and vital to enhance performance.
CEN Healthy Products:
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