Swot up on prevention methods to ward off disease
Having an understanding of the causes of colic allows the formulation of disease prevention strategies. Here are some practical suggestions from University of Liverpool research, which is based on scientific studies and will minimise the risk of many types of colic among your horses.
1. Be aware of your horse's parasite status and use appropriate control measures -- This is not just a matter of using large amounts of worming drugs. It means using diagnostic testing to assess which parasites are present and to identify which horses are infected. It then involves advice from your veterinary surgeon on the best way of controlling infection. Whatever the worm control programme that you use, periodic diagnostic testing is worthwhile to check that the programme is effective. Every episode of parasite-associated colic is potentially preventable.
2. Investigate horses with mild colic episodes -- They could be an early warning of a developing problem. Worm egg counts and tapeworm antibody tests are relatively cheap and the information gained from them could save you a lot of money and your horses much suffering.
3. Regular dental care -- This has been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of colic in horses and donkeys. It is recommended to have an equine dental check, by a veterinary surgeon or a qualified equine dental technician, every 6-12 months.
4. Maintain a regular feeding routine -- Changes in routine can be trigger factors for colic episodes in the same way that changes in diet can be. Being fed by the same person every day has been demonstrated to protect against colic.
5. Minimise any changes in diet -- Don't make unnecessary changes to a horse's diet. Try to standardise the diet even when the horse is away from home, such as when competing or visiting a stud. Every change in diet will increase the risk of several types of colic for a period of seven to 14 days.
6. Make any changes slowly, over a long period of time -- Changes in the forage/concentrate ratio of a diet should be made progressively over a period of two to three weeks. This will allow time for the horse's gut to adapt to the altered diet. Be aware of the dietary changes that occur when you change your horse's management -- for example, turnout at the end of the competition season -- and make such changes gradually.
7. Avoid buying a horse with a history of colic -- You might be buying a problem horse that suffers recurrent colic episodes. It will certainly be at an increased risk of colic.