Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Looking at Side, Flank or Belly

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If you are convinced this is a sign of colic (abdominal pain).
  • If the behavior continues with no explanation.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.
  • If the horse's appetite and attitude are normal and you see nothing else wrong.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Sometimes known as flank watching, this is a common sign of abdominal pain (colic) in horses. It is usually seen in combination with other signs of abdominal pain like loss of appetite, kicking at belly or lying down, among many others. Sometimes however, this is the only sign you will see.

In some cases, skin irritation, a wound or other injury to the flank causes a horse to look at this painful or irritated area. Some horses also will bite at the side as part of this behavior.

WHAT TO DO

Watch the horse carefully for a few minutes, and look for other signs of abdominal pain. Examine the area carefully for flies or other sources of skin irritation or a wound.

Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to heart rate, attitude and appetite, appearance of gums and intestinal sounds. If there is no evidence of other causes for the behavior, consider this as evidence of abdominal pain (colic) and contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet approaches this as a sign of abdominal pain (colic) unless other signs are evident.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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