Colic in Horses, Foremilk Stripping in Cows, Docking Lambs Tails and More

Animal health on the homestead, including recognizing and treating colic in horses, the benefits of stripping foremilk in cows, docking lambs tails, lameness in dogs and bird care.

| June/July 1995

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    Colic has many causes, but always reflects abdominal discomfort.
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    One way to take a horse's pulse is to count the number of times the nostrils flare with each breath.
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    The color of a horse's mucus membranes can indicate a state of shock.
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    Healthy birds are comfortable in a similar temperature range as their owners.

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Dear Andrea: 

Recently, my two-year-old registered quarter horse gelding came down with a case of colic. The vet said it wasn't too serious, but I was alarmed by my horse's symptoms and felt helpless while awaiting the doc's arrival. What causes colic, and is there anything I can do to prevent or alleviate it? 

Simon MillerCarbondale, IL  

Dear Simon:  

Colic is a general term used to describe any crisis which causes abdominal discomfort in a horse. Most cases of colic are not catastrophic; in fact, a majority pass with little intervention. Some horses suffer colic when their environment or feeding schedule is changed. In fact, any alteration in routine management may cause a horse to colic. Many bacteria and viruses cause colic; horses that travel frequently may encounter sick animals and become ill themselves. One of the most common causes of colic is parasites and their migration throughout the intestines. Sometimes horses may nibble on pieces of rubber fencing, nylon hay netting, their blankets, baling twine, plastic bags, and the like, and wind up swallowing a piece. On rare occasions, this object can become lodged almost anywhere past the stomach and produce severe twisting of the intestines and bloat, both life-threatening emergencies.

Signs of colic vary from extremely mild to severe. Mild signs include an animal that is not eating but is stretching more often (as if to urinate), looking at his flanks, turning around and nipping at them, or lying down frequently. More severe signs include pawing, walking the stall, lying down and getting up frequently, and rolling. An animal in severe colic pain will also sweat and breathe with difficulty.

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