Impaction is one of the most common causes of colic. Despite this, there continues to be much misunderstanding about diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. It is especially likely to occur in colder months, when horses normally drink less water.
Impaction colic occurs when fecal matter doesn’t move properly through the horse’s colon and becomes impacted. The first symptom is often a slight case of diarrhea.
Many impaction colics can be avoided entirely by careful management and strict attention to water consumption.
- Every horse’s water intake drops off with rapid weather changes, especially during cold snaps. The drop can sometimes be sharp.
- A change from pasture to hay causes a dramatic drop in water consumption (grass is 80% water)
- Make sure the average-size horse gets at least 1 oz. (two tablespoons) of salt per day, even in winter. Salt triggers the thirst mechanism, causing the horse to seek water. You can put this in his feed (build up gradually, over the course of three days).
- Monitor water intake carefully. An idle 1,100-lb. horse on a hay and grain diet should drink 6 to 8 gallons per day or 10 to 13 gallons per day if on a hay-only diet.
- Giving a warm, salted mash, at one or all meals, is cheap insurance. Beet pulp, hay pellets or cubes, wheat bran, concentrate pellets are all suitable for mashes.
- If you can give your horse warm water in the winter, do so. You can even simply top off the bucket with warm water. If you’re going to incorporate warm water in your program, it’s important to do it consistently, and do it every day.
- Keep ice removed from water tanks, so the horse can drink. Snow isn’t a water substitute.