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Equine Health Resource

Large Colon Mechanical Obstruction, Generally

There are multiple non-strangulating large colon displacements and obstructions that are possible in the horse. The two most well recognized displacements are right dorsal displacement and left dorsal displacement, which are discussed in related records.

Non-strangulating displacements can partially or completely block the transit of feed within the colon. The severity of the signs depends on many factors, including the degree of blockage and the amount of gas distention. Displacement through sheets of tissue (herniation) can also occur and take many forms.

The cause of displacements is truly unknown but likely begins with dysfunction of the colon which leads to its movement out of place. Sometimes, the type of obstruction can be diagnosed with a careful rectal examination and the use of ultrasound. In most cases, however, the nature of the obstruction can only be determined at exploratory abdominal (colic) surgery.

Displacement can be difficult to differentiate from stubborn impaction or other physical obstruction, without surgical exploration.


  • Why do you think the horse has a displacement?
  • With surgery, what is the prognosis?
  • What is the cost?
  • What is the likelihood of recurrence?

    All factors that reduce colic in general should help reduce the likelihood of intestinal accident but there are still no guarantees. Examples of "trigger" or risk factors include changes in stabling and management, stressful events, travel, stall confinement, and concurrent disease.

    Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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