DO YOU REALLY KNOW ABOUT COLIC SURGERY?
You have found your horse laying down and looking at his belly. Then he started getting up and down, pawing and looking visibly uncomfortable. You have called your veterinarian immediately and in the meantime you have walked your horse for an hour. Your veterinarian has examined the horse and sent him immediately to the clinic, and here you are, it’s midnight, it’s cold outside, you are exhausted and sleep deprived and on top of all of that, you need to decide if your horse can go for colic surgery.
We understand that nobody want to be in this situation!
Our team at Pferdeklinik Großwallstadt is prepared to guide you through this difficult process, and believe us, we do this every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. What for you is exceptional and emotionally challenging, for us is a daily routine. So you can trust us and we are here for you. We want you to have all the tools to make an INFORMED DECISION when it comes to your horse’s health, based on the LATEST SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE and on the work of dozens of colic surgeons around the whole world. We want to present you with facts, and destroy the pony club myths.
Colic is a syndrome, not a disease. In fact, colic only means “abdominal pain”. Causes of colic can be diverse and span from gas and spasm in the large intestine, an impaction of the large colon, cecum or small colon, a displacement of the large colon, a torsion of the large colon, an impaction of the small intestine, a strangulation of the small intestine, or even gastric ulcers, among others.
The home veterinarian needs to be called as fast as possible. The first line of colic exam and treatment is normally done by your veterinarian at home. That is very important and can be LIFESAVING. What he or she will do is to do a full physical exam, perform a nasogastric intubation, a rectal exam and give the drugs that he or she thinks are appropriate to make your horse feel better. Also he or she will know, thanks to his/her diagnostics and clinical experience, whether or not your horse needs to be referred to a facility where further diagnostic, intensive care and surgery can be performed. NO VETERINARIAN, NO MATTER HOW PREPARED OR HOW GOOD HE OR SHE IS, CAN MAKE A DIAGNOSIS 100% OF THE TIME. Rectal exams allow us to palpate at most 30% of the abdominal structures and the problem may not be within reach.
COLICS ARE TRUE EMERGENCIES and the picture can change very quickly. Therefore WE WILL REPEAT the diagnostics once your horse is here in the clinic. Also, we will perform an abdominal ultrasound and sometimes an abdominocentesis to evaluate how severe the inflammation of the intestine is.
Colic surgery is both diagnostic and therapeutic. In fact, the proper name is “EXPLORATORY LAPAROTOMY”. We will try to gather as much information as we can in a noninvasive manner, however sometimes the findings are not definitive. In such cases, if your horse keeps having pain despite the medications, taking him to surgery will allow us to make a proper diagnosis and direct the treatment accordingly, BEFORE THE SITUATION WORSENS.
“All horses that undergo colic surgery are in such bad conditions that they die”. Absolutely false! As we already said, colic can mean a million different things and it is the severity of the primary disease that dictates the survival rate, not the fact that the horse goes to surgery. In fact, fast surgical intervention IMPROVES THE CHANCES OF SURVIVAL compared to delayed intervention.
“My horse will never be the same”. Absolutely false! Horses that undergo colic surgery can proceed to having a COMPLETELY NORMAL LIFE, ALSO AS ATHLETES. Two recent American studies proved that over 70% of racehorses returned to the same level of performance and earnings after colic surgery. The recovery time after an uncomplicated colic surgery is three months.
• Tomlinson JE, Boston RC, Brauer T. Evaluation of racing performance after colic surgery in Thoroughbreds: 85 cases (1996-2010). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2013; 243: 532-7.
• Hart SK, Southwood LL, Aceto HW. Impact of colic surgery on return to function in racing Thoroughbreds: 59 cases (1996–2009) J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2014; 244:205-211.
“My horse is too old for colic surgery”. Absolutely false! Age is not a disease- not in horses anyhow! For the majority of the conditions operated on, including resection and anastomosis, the survival of geriatric horses is no different than for their younger counterparts.
• Southwood LL, Gassert T, Lindborg S. Colic in geriatric compared to mature nongeriatric horses. Part 2: Treatment, diagnosis and short-term survival. Equine Vet J. 2010; 42: 628-35.
“Horses don’t recover fully after resection and anastomosis of the small intestine”. Absolutely false! Colic surgery has made huge progresses in the past 10 years and we know a lot more about it than we used to 15 years ago. That has resulted in a tremendous improvement of the prognosis also for small intestinal resections, historically associated with a bad prognosis. We can confidently say that survival to discharge is higher than 90% for strangulating lesions and long term survival (6 years after discharge) ranges between 70 and 80%.
• Freeman DE, Schaeffer DJ. Clinical comparison between a continuous Lembert pattern wrapped in a carboxymethylcellulose and hyaluronate membrane with an interrupted Lembert pattern for one-layer jejunojejunostomy in horses. Equine vet. J. 2011; 43: 708-713.
Seeing your own horse having colic can make you feel powerless and can be an emotional rollercoaster. WE ARE HERE FOR YOU! We bring years of specialized training and we have thousands of cases under our belts. Your horse will have the best chances of a successful outcome.