As the name suggests, the intestines of the horse with spasmodic colic develop muscular spasms or ‘cramps’, causing pain. The is one of the most commonest types of colic in horses.

Cause: The cause of spasmodic colic is unclear. In many animals it seems to develop for no apparent reason, although as some excitable animals may develop spasmodic colic with the slightest of changes in there daily routine, it could be regarded as a symptom of increased stress levels. It has been suggested that some cases may be due to the migration of worms through the intestinal wall, causing ‘hyper-excitability’ of that portion of intestine and ‘cramps’. A single worm may be all that is required to trigger such spasms, which therefore may occur in horses which are receiving regular and appropriate worming treatment.

Signs: Some horses with spasmodic colic may show very severe pain and thrash around the box. It is often possible to hear rumbling gut noises from quite a distance and animals may produce several piles of feces in quick succession following the onset of colic. The respiratory rate may be markedly elevated, but heart rate is not usually very high. Rectal examination, stomach tubing and peritoneal tap will all yield normal results.

Treatment: Injection of a ‘spasmolytic’ drug to relax the intestines will eliminate signs of pain within 10-15 minutes, usually faster.


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