What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Pregnant Mare Showing Colic Signs


"Colic" is a general term for a horse's demonstration of abdominal pain. It is a common emergency, and can result from simple gas accumulation or gut spasm (70% of the time), or from more serious problems involving any part of the equine intestine. Occasionally a horse can show colic signs when body systems other than the intestines are involved. Examples in the pregnant mare are impending abortion, the foaling process itself, and uterine torsion or malposition.

Colic in pregnant mares is relatively common, especially in the last few months of pregnancy. Pregnant mares are probably predisposed to increased intestinal dysfunction because of the space occupying mass of the pregnancy. There are also particular conditions causing colic that are only seen in the pregnant mare. An example of this is uterine torsion.

Signs of colic include the listed of related observations. Any or all of these signs can range from mild to severe, but severity of any signs do not always correlate to the severity of the problem. Horses may show one sign, or many.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • When you first notice signs of colic.
    • If a horse has had flunixin (Banamine) and has not returned to normal attitude and appetite.
    • If you are concerned about the pregnancy or the mare and want an evaluation.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • To learn how to minimize the likelihood of the problem in your horses.
    • Once the problem is resolved it is still wise to evaluate the horse's general health and management to ensure there is no underlying problem.

your role


What To Do

Your pregnant mare is showing signs of colic pain. If it is safe to do so, assess their general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) paying particular attention to attitude, heart rate, mucous membrane appearance, capillary refill time, and gut sounds. Also look at the appearance of the vulva and udder as these areas provide information about the pregnancy and could suggest impending foaling. Share these findings with your vet when you call them. Walk the mare calmly until your vet is able to evaluate her.

your vet's role

Your vet tries to differentiate problems with the reproductive tract or pregnancy from other conditions causing colic. Treatment approach will depend upon the diagnosis. It can be quite difficult to evaluate the intestinal tract in the late-term pregnant mare because of the large fetus being in the way.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the mare's age, breed and history?
  • What was her last recorded breeding date?
  • When did you first notice signs of colic?
  • Can I have your location and directions to get to you as soon as possible?
  • Have you noticed vaginal discharge?
  • Does the udder appear enlarged?
  • Does the udder have milk in it?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

Very Common
Less Common
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Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP