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Colic, Gas, Large Colon Tympany

A “gas” colic is when a horse’s large colon is distended with gas but, based on the diagnostics performed, the vet does not believe that there is a physical obstruction of the intestine.

This condition is thought to occur due to an escalating cycle of pain and excessive intestinal filling (distention). Pain causes paralysis of the gut’s normal movement, which causes more distention, causing more pain, causing more distention, and so on.

Horses with this problem can demonstrate mild to very severe signs of abdominal pain. Generally, however, if a horse responds to simple treatments, vets tend to attribute the episode to a large colon “gas colic.”

This may be the horse that has a single bout of abdominal pain and responds well to a shot of flunixin (Banamine) or other medication, or simply resolves without additional treatment.

On the other hand, this fallback diagnosis might be confused with a variety of other conditions causing abdominal pain. It is often difficult to differentiate this type of colic from displacements and impactions of the colon.

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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