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Gas colic, weather changes - prevention - what am I missing?

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  • Gas colic, weather changes - prevention - what am I missing?

    My 13 yo TB mare has had two episodes of gas colic in the past month - this is highly unusual for her, as she's never once had any sort of colic in the 4 years I've owned her, and her previous owner said she only ever had one mild colic episode. Thankfully both episodes she's had were resolved with banamine and walking, but I'd really like to avoid this in the future!

    I've put in a call to my vet to get his advice, but haven't heard back from him yet, so I thought I'd see if the COTHers had any advice on prevention. Our weather is fluctuating wildly here - I'm in western MA - and today it's 28 degrees, but tomorrow is supposed to be 50 (yes, 50) for most of the day.

    Current situation: Mare is on pasture (grazed well down) and turnout from 8 am until 9 pm. Sometimes she stays out overnight, too, though recently she's been spending the nights in the barn due to the weather (partially her choice, and sometimes I close her in to give her feet a rest from the mud). She gets very little grain - half a quart twice a day - and gets hay three (sometimes four) times a day - gets at least 3 solid flakes per feeding, and goes through a little less than a bale each day. She also gets beet pulp each morning (well soaked for 8 hours prior). She's on electrolytes and Cimetidine (for melanoma suppression). This is all standard diet for her; nothing has changed.

    She drinks well and has access to a heated trough (we just replaced the heater - no electrical charge), as well as her own bucket and a second unheated trough. She hasn't been dehydrated during either colic episode. She's also blanketed, and I live above the barn so I check her blankets probably 3 times a day to make sure she's comfortable and dry.

    So, what am I missing? What can I do here? Any thoughts would be very much appreciated!!!
    Dapplebay - home of original equestrian clothing and accessories.

  • #2
    Two things I can think of...
    1) If the pasture is pretty stressed plus the temp changes, could it be that there is a lot of sugar in the grass?

    2) The beet pulp...why an 8 hour soak? It seems to me like there could be fermentation going on with that length of time. I only soaked mine for about 30 min in warm water--but I was feeding pelleted, not shredded/molasses. Not sure which you're doing.

    If it were me, I think I'd modify the BP routine and try to minimize sugar. I might also consider a probiotic.

    I know that the drastic temp and pressure changes can wreak havoc on some horses, but it still seems odd that she'd be having two colics in a month if something ELSE wasn't going on. KWIM?
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm deeply skeptical of weather changes, in and of themselves, causing gas colic, or any other type of colic.

      If gross drops in atmospheric pressure cause colic should we not have seen a massive number of coliced horses in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy? Or Ivan? Or even Katrina? Did we see such an increase? If not, why not?

      Here in TN we are subject to significant swings in temperature in the winter months. Early this week the daily swings were more than 30 degrees between night and day. Next week we'll have one day at a high of 70 and next will run a high in the upper 40s. In the 23 years I've lived here I've never had a case of colic that I'd associate with a change in temperature event. That's with running an average, on board at any time count of 25 or so.

      I asked our vet about this and she said that her colic calls do increase at times when there is a big temperature change. But many of these are phone consults and they resolve themselves with mild owner-administered treatment (some Banamine and walking). So she really does not have a SOAP backed data set we could analyze.

      If this is a real phenomenon I'd be interested in reading about it and the science that support it. So far I've not found any.

      G.
      Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by BuddyRoo View Post
        Two things I can think of...
        1) If the pasture is pretty stressed plus the temp changes, could it be that there is a lot of sugar in the grass?

        2) The beet pulp...why an 8 hour soak? It seems to me like there could be fermentation going on with that length of time. I only soaked mine for about 30 min in warm water--but I was feeding pelleted, not shredded/molasses. Not sure which you're doing.

        If it were me, I think I'd modify the BP routine and try to minimize sugar. I might also consider a probiotic.

        I know that the drastic temp and pressure changes can wreak havoc on some horses, but it still seems odd that she'd be having two colics in a month if something ELSE wasn't going on. KWIM?
        Ditto to this. The overstressed grass can have more sugar in it than you expect. My guy doesn't handle BP well, so I cut that out a while back. I do feed him soaked alf. cubes, with a product called Assureguard. It is similar to Succeed and seems to help his gas colics on this diet.

        Comment


        • #5
          I too would be suspicious of the grass at this time. Also make sure, if possible, that you know exactly how much water she is drinking and try to make sure her intake of water is consistent. I would not assume she is drinking well unless you have a way of determining her gallons/day. Good luck!

          Comment


          • #6
            Guilherme--I wonder if the temp change correlation is actually caused more by the fact that WE change our horse husbandry with weather changes. IE: different routine bringing horses in who normally are out more, change of feed--giving mashes and the like or adding more feed, more stalling, less turnout, yada yada.

            I personally have not experienced issues with my horses due to changes in temp BUT I have seen first hand that there's a correlation in the number of mild colics around this time of year. However, correlation does not equate to causation.
            A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

            Might be a reason, never an excuse...

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Thank you all for your thoughts!

              Buddyroo - I'm soaking the beet pulp for 8 hours because it's indicated to do so on the bag - they're beet pulp pellets (all I can find around here) and the directions specify at least an 8 hour soak. I do keep them in a cool place during this, but I see just what you're saying about possible fermentation. She's been on the beet pulp for a while, though, and I haven't seen a problem, unless that's what's causing these gas colics.

              In regards to the pasture - she has a run-in/out situation with 3 other horses. The grass has been well grazed down (it's an inch tall everywhere, now) but pulling her off of the area really isn't an option - that's the turnout area available at this barn.

              Ticker - I can keep a fairly accurate account of how much she drinks, as she comes in for meals and eats in her stall, so I have a good idea of what she drinks then, in addition to being able to keep an eye on her in the pasture.
              Dapplebay - home of original equestrian clothing and accessories.

              Comment


              • #8
                Why do you have her blanketed? I would be afraid she'd overheat when the sun comes out.
                ************************
                \"Horses lend us the wings we lack\"

                Comment


                • #9
                  Please don't rule out ulcers. I had a long post and I hit the wrong key and lost it. To make a long story short, after many yrs of maybe 15 mild to moderate gas colics/yr one vet finally suggested the possibility of ulcers.

                  I did not have my horse scoped because it would have been a 2 hr trip to Cornell and many $ later and the treatment would have been the same.

                  I treated my horse with 8 tubes of GastroGard. I used 1/4 tube/day for 32 days have now only have 1-2 very mild gas colics that I just hand walk and throw him on a lunge line for a few minutes of jogging. I also feed either Ration Plus or ProBios.
                  Sue

                  I'm not saying let's go kill all the stupid people...I'm just saying let's remove all the warning labels and let the problem sort itself out.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I had a horse that had no less than five gas colics, three causing displacement, one surgery. When collic number five occured I was at my wit;s end....I had four times the money tied up in the colic incidents than the purchase price! I could not afford another surgery. A vet at the track where I was working suggested Succeed. Being desperate, I tried it. I don't know why but it worked wonders....he never coliced again....I got it from a friend who owned a feed store for half price...the horse lived on it, gained so much weight he , at 17.0 and an active jumping career, was getting practically no short feed at all...no beet pulp....lots of hay and wet dengi with the little grain, salt and minerals he got. His belly dropped a good 6 inches, and for the first time in his life he went with his ears up and was not longer cranky.
                    "Over the Hill?? What Hill, Where?? I don't remember any hill!!!" Favorite Tee Shirt

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      When a horse colics and people think it may be weather related I always think about the basics and wonder if the weather just happened to be the factor that pushed the horse over the edge and made them colic because other things are going on. I go back to the basics and usually find some reason for it. Some things to consider:

                      1. What is the horses deworming program? When did it last have Qwest Plus or a Powerpak? Worms can cause colic.
                      2. Sand. Are they in an area where she can pick up sand? If so, have you addressed and treated that.
                      3. Ulcers. Have a vet check her ulcer points or scope her.
                      4. Hind gut ulcers. Run a Succeed fecal test on her and if it is positive, figure out if it is from hind gut ulcers, worms, or sand.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        We have increases of mild colics during big temperature swings, especially in winters here where it can be freezing one day, and the next in the high 80's. It has always seemed to be worse in older, thinner horses, horses that don't drink enough water when it's cold outside, blanketed horses, and horses that have changes in their exercise routines.

                        This may not be the case with your horse, just observations from an area that has temperature fluctuations most if not all winters for months on end.

                        I'd agree to checking for parasites and ulcers since you think its gas colic.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by davistina67 View Post
                          1. What is the horses deworming program? When did it last have Qwest Plus or a Powerpak? Worms can cause colic.
                          2. Sand. Are they in an area where she can pick up sand? If so, have you addressed and treated that.
                          3. Ulcers. Have a vet check her ulcer points or scope her.
                          4. Hind gut ulcers. Run a Succeed fecal test on her and if it is positive, figure out if it is from hind gut ulcers, worms, or sand.
                          Check all these plus teeth.
                          ... _. ._ .._. .._

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Thanks for the suggestions! She had a fecal done in October; it was negative, and I wormed her with Quest Plus at that time, per the vet's suggestion.

                            She's blanketed because she just can't tolerate the cold - I tried to let her go natural for a few years, but she came in shivering heavily repeatedly. I don't throw on tons of blankets right away; I let her coat grow as much as possible, and I blanket however much is necessary to keep her comfy. I check her blankets throughout the day to make sure that she doesn't overheat; frequently I remove the blankets during the day if the weather is decent.

                            Her teeth were floated in April and her vet checked them again when he was here in October; he said that they're fine.

                            Excellent point about the ulcers - although she doesn't show classic signs of ulcers, it's certainly worth pursuing.
                            Dapplebay - home of original equestrian clothing and accessories.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Patrick hasn't had a problem in 2 years, but back in October he was miserable and the vet had to come out and tube him on top of the IV Banamine.

                              Our theory... he was a little dehydrated (not drinking as much since the weather cooled off?) and had been snarfing up oak leaves, which are like leather, plus acorns.

                              My solution was to rake the leaves, pick up the world's tiniest acorns by hand, wet his hay, and give him 2-3 gallons of warm water flavored with senior feed, which I *know* he will drink, with every meal.

                              I have slowly backed off on soaking the hay, but he's still getting an extra bucket with a pint of sr feed in 2-3 gallons of water at every feeding. I like seeing that *empty* bucket when I check him later, and knowing he's definitely drinking 8 gallons a day, plus whatever he drinks out of his tub.
                              --
                              Wendy
                              ... and Patrick

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                FWIW - in the winter, when my mare's ulcers have flared up (which is currently happening right now) it presents as "colic" - limited eating, drinking, and eventually, the laying down, signs of discomfort stuff.
                                "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by BuddyRoo View Post
                                  Guilherme--I wonder if the temp change correlation is actually caused more by the fact that WE change our horse husbandry with weather changes. IE: different routine bringing horses in who normally are out more, change of feed--giving mashes and the like or adding more feed, more stalling, less turnout, yada yada.

                                  I personally have not experienced issues with my horses due to changes in temp BUT I have seen first hand that there's a correlation in the number of mild colics around this time of year. However, correlation does not equate to causation.
                                  Aren't most colics related to husbandry?!?!?!

                                  You're probably correct that with temp. related changes you also have big changes in turnout patterns, blanketing, etc. Some horses with easily upsetable digestive systems will react more than others. I wonder if some folks don't induce (or least set a horse up) for a "dehydration" colic by over-blanketing causing excessive sweating and moisture loss that the horse does not immediately correct by more drinking.

                                  Ours are out 24/7 (except for the stallion) and we don't blanket except for our retired, senior brood mare (she's 32). Of note, half of my horses were imported from Brazil and all others are "first generation" in the U.S. They grow good coats and tolerate our East TN winters quite well. I have not had a colic that required human intervention in more than three years. We presently have 14 of our own horses.

                                  Thank you VERY much for the observation that correlation and causation are separate issues. That often seems to go un-noticed in today's world.

                                  G.
                                  Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Paige777 View Post
                                    Excellent point about the ulcers - although she doesn't show classic signs of ulcers, it's certainly worth pursuing.
                                    My ottb didn't show any classic ulcer signs either. He looks more like a warmblood than an ottb in that he's built like a brick $hit house, no lovely classic tb look at all. He is so laid back he's actually boring to be honest. He has no idea how to be bad or nasty but his history was of racing and then 1 yr of intense eventing. Any of those could certainly have given him ulcers.

                                    It took several yrs and about 3-5 vets before one finally suggested that while he didn't appear to be ulcer prone, it was worth considering ulcers and possibly doing the GastroGard. God bless her.

                                    That vet, BTW, is the President-elect of AAEP.
                                    Last edited by msj; Dec. 1, 2012, 06:26 PM. Reason: Added history of horse
                                    Sue

                                    I'm not saying let's go kill all the stupid people...I'm just saying let's remove all the warning labels and let the problem sort itself out.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      My mare had a few gas colics before I figured out that she simply cannot even look at beetpulp. In fact, I don't even say the word in her presence!
                                      I am touching wood as I type.

                                      From discussions with the local vets, they seem to think that drastic changes in pressure do contribute to the number of colic cases - thinking along the lines of what divers experience with the bends or decompression sickness. I am not a diver so have no point of reference for the analogy.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        My TB mare (now 25) also had a history of weather-related gas colics. I knew when the weather changed Lola would colic and my son would have an asthma attack. I started giving her probiotics and (knocking wood) it ceased to be an issue. That was over 15 years ago.

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