Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Colic, Undiagnosed Conditions Causing

There are literally hundreds of conditions of the intestine that can cause colic (abdominal pain).

Many simple cases of abdominal pain (colic) are not definitively diagnosed but respond to simple treatment. By default, vets often call these “spasmodic” or “gas-type” colic episodes. In many cases, the causes of colic episodes are not diagnosed. In other cases, even with diagnostics, the condition causing colic is not known until and unless exploratory colic surgery is performed.

If these episodes persist or worsen, you should consider investing in additional diagnostics to help narrow the problem and reach a diagnosis.

Do your best to help your vet by providing as much information about your horse’s history and management as possible.

Prognosis & Relevant Factors

Prognosis is difficult to assess without identifying the underlying cause.

I Might ObserveRelated Observations

Recurrent Colic Episodes without a Diagnosis
Lip Curl, Flehmen Response
Capillary Refill Time (CRT) Prolonged
Looking at Side, Flank or Belly
Heart Rate, Pulse Rapid, Greater than 48 BPM at Rest (in Adult)
Kicks at Belly or Abdomen
Collapsed & Died Suddenly, Witnessed
Rolling (in Adult)
Backs into Corner of Stall
Not Eating, Loss of Appetite, Not Hungry
Depressed, Dull, Sick or Lethargic
Biting at Side or Body
Mare in Abdominal Pain (Colic), Soon after Foaling
Abdomen or Belly is Rumbling Loudly
Membranes of Mouth, Gums appear Pale
Intestinal, Gut Sounds with Stethoscope Less Than Normal
Flanks Sunken, Drawn Up
Dog-Sitting, Sitting on Hindquarters, Forequarters Raised
Intestinal, Gut Sounds with Stethoscope Seem More Than Normal
Stretching Body Out, Front Limbs Forward, Hind Limbs Back
Lying Down More Than Normal, or Getting Up & Down
Depressed & Not Eating Right after Intense Exercise
Noticeably Wobbly or Weak
Abdominal Pain, Colic Signs
Swishing Tail Excessively
Agitated, Anxious, Nervous or Stressed
Buckling, Crouching Behind
Abdomen or Belly seems Rigid, Painful to Pressure
Teeth Grinding (in Adult)
Compulsive, Forceful Walking, Driving Forward when Led
Stretching, Dropping Penis, Trying to Urinate
Irritability, Moodiness, or Aggression Toward People
Foal or Newborn, Grinding Teeth or Curling Lip
Sudden Collapse or Apparent Loss of Consciousness
Grunting or Groaning when Moving
Urination, Frequent & Small Amounts of Urine
Rapid Breathing, Flaring Nostrils at Rest (Not after Exercise)
Local Muscle Twitching
Foul Odor from Mouth or Face, Bad Breath
Tail Raised or Held Off to One Side
Lip Quivering, Lip Flapping, Strange Movement of Lips
Shivering, Muscle Trembling All Over
Pulse or Heart Beat Irregular, Arrhythmia
Down with Limbs Tipped Up, Cast
Mare Not Eating or Depressed, Soon after Foaling
Mare Squatting, Urinating Small Amounts
Urination, Straining or Difficulty
Sweating Excessively
Appears Dehydrated
Grain Overload, Horse Got into Feed Room
Eating too Fast, Bolting Down Feed
Membranes of Mouth, Gums are Dry or Tacky
Penis Dropped, Will Not Retract, or Persistent Erection
Membranes of Mouth, Gums appear Dark
Abrasion or Scrape on Head or Face
Stretching Forelimbs Far Forward & Dipping Back
Cannot Seem to Get Up, Lying Down, Seems Aware
Manure is Hard or Dry
Excessively Cold Wintery Weather
Incontinence, Urine Dribbling or Dripping
Playing in Water Excessively Without Drinking
Sores on a Down Horse
Catastrophic Injury, Suffering Horse, No Access to Vet
Grunting or Groaning when Breathing
Extending or Stretching Out Neck
Abrasion or Scrape, Anywhere on Body
Pushy, Lacks Respect, No Ground Manners
Hypersensitive to Touch on Flanks & Belly
Hay looks Old, Dusty or Moldy
Staring Into Space, Seems Unresponsive
Not Eating New Feed
Rapid Pulse Persists Longer Than Normal after Exercise
Not Eating Grain
Unconscious, Lying Down & Not Responsive


  • Is there something I can do differently in management or feeding to lessen the likelihood of this problem?

    Follow all of the general recommendations for preventing colic such as avoiding rapid changes in diet and management.
    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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