Surgical Procedure for Equine Colic: From Arrival to Recovery

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Veterinarian exam horse with stethoscope in case of equine colic

Equine colic is a common and potentially life-threatening condition that affects horses’ gastrointestinal tract

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to resolve the issue and save the horse’s life. Read the first article about the horse colic here. This article provides an overview of the surgical procedure for equine colic, from the moment the horse arrives at the clinic to its eventual departure post-operation.

  1. Arrival and Assessment:
    Upon arrival at the veterinary clinic, the horse’s condition is assessed by experienced veterinarians. This involves a thorough physical examination, including heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and hydration status. The horse’s history, clinical signs, and response to initial treatment are crucial in determining the need for surgery.
  2. Diagnostic Imaging:
    Diagnostic tools such as ultrasound, radiography, and endoscopy are utilized to identify the specific cause and location of the colic. These imaging techniques help veterinarians understand the nature and severity of the intestinal problem.
  3. Pre-operative Preparation:
    If surgical intervention is deemed necessary, the horse is prepared for surgery. This includes intravenous fluid therapy to correct dehydration, and possibly nasogastric intubation to relieve excess gas or fluid in the stomach.
  4. Anesthesia and Induction:
    Once the horse is adequately prepared, it is led into the surgical suite. General anesthesia is induced, typically through intravenous injection, and the horse is placed on a padded surgical table. Endotracheal intubation ensures a secure airway throughout the procedure.
  5. Surgical Procedure:
    The specific surgical approach varies depending on the cause of colic, but the general steps involve making an incision in the abdominal wall, allowing access to the intestines. Veterinarians carefully examine the intestines for abnormalities, twists, obstructions, or torsions. In some cases, damaged sections of intestine may need to be resected.
  6. Intestinal Manipulation and Correction:
    Veterinarians gently manipulate the intestines to correct any twists or obstructions. This step requires utmost care to prevent further damage to the delicate tissues.
  7. Post-operative Care:
    After the surgical procedure is complete, the horse is awakened from anesthesia and carefully monitored during the recovery phase. Intravenous fluids and pain management are administered as needed. The horse’s vital signs, pain level, and responsiveness are closely observed.
  8. Gradual Feeding and Monitoring:
    Once the horse shows signs of recovery, a carefully monitored refeeding protocol is initiated. Gradually introducing small amounts of easily digestible feed helps prevent post-operative complications.
  9. Wound Management:
    The incision site is closely monitored for signs of infection or complications. Sutures or staples are removed once the wound has healed sufficiently.
  10. Return to Normal Activity:
    The horse’s return to normal activity is gradual and depends on the severity of the surgical procedure. Close monitoring, exercise restriction, and follow-up appointments with the veterinarian are important during this phase.
  11. Discharge and Follow-up:
    When the horse’s condition has improved, and it is eating, drinking, and passing manure normally, it is ready for discharge. Veterinarians provide detailed care instructions for the owner to follow during the recovery period.

Equine colic surgery is a complex procedure that requires skilled veterinary expertise and a comprehensive understanding of equine physiology. Timely intervention, meticulous surgical technique, and attentive post-operative care are essential in ensuring the horse’s successful recovery and return to normal health.

In collaboration with Clinica Piola – Doctor Barbara Garbagnati

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