What are some risk factors associated with colic?

Colic has long been a recognized problem for horses and remains to be a leading cause of sickness and death among horses of all breeds and levels of performance. Most horse owners are familiar with the problem of colic, but factors most often associated with colic are commonly misunderstood. The following information is presented in an effort to better educate our clients in risk factors associated with colic and has been compiled from research at veterinary colleges throughout the country.

  • Feeding concentrated, non-roughage diets increase the risk of colic by 70%.
  • Abrupt changes in the amount or type of a feed.
  • Risk factors significantly associated with the incidence of colic are environmental temperature, relative humidity and the hydration status of a horse.
  • Horses stalled greater than 12 hours per day have a significantly higher risk than those horses ridden routinely or on pasture 24 hours per day.
  • Horses in the primary care of an owner have a lower risk of colic.
  • Horses fed on the ground in sandy soils have a greater likelihood of sand impaction.
  • Horses that have had abdominal surgery greater than 12 months prior have no greater risk of colic than horses which have a prior history of colic than the general population.
  • Chronic, intermittent colic may have many likely causes such as gastric ulceration, intestinal neoplasia (cancer) and recurrent colonic impactions from motility disorders of intra-abdominal abscesses.
  • Horses with a poor deworming history had a greater incidence of colic due to migratory large strongyles. Presently, non-migratory small strongyles are increasing as a colic risk factor.