When referring a horse with abdominal pain, remember that the success for colic surgery depends upon early and rapid referral. A full history should be given over the telephone and should include medication administered prior to referral. Further information, such as rectal palpation findings, fluid from paracentesis abdominis and the degree of pain are also important and may shed light on a possible diagnosis.
If there is gastric reflux, a stomach tube should be passed and maintained in place by attaching it to the horse’s headcollar before travelling. This will be returned to the referring practice and may be life-saving in preventing gastric rupture during transport. It is usually preferable to refer the horse promptly even though it may appear dehydrated as delay spent administering intravenous fluids before admission may be counter-productive.
Each year a number of horses are referred for surgery and are subsequently diagnosed as having medical intestinal problems. Most recover with medical treatment and owners are usually grateful for referral, because they understand the need for close monitoring at a surgical facility. Particular care should be taken when examining horses that are found in the morning with colic, as the onset of clinical signs may be much earlier than appreciated. If there is any doubt, it is preferable to transport the horse to the hospital immediately and contact us as soon as it has left, giving the expected time of arrival and details of the horse’s history and of the treatment that it has received.
Over the years, diagnostic capabilities, the range of treatable conditions and the survival rate for equine colic have increased significantly. We have a large experienced team of veterinary surgeons and nurses available to deal with the management and monitoring of colic cases around the clock. This approach has proved invaluable over the years with continually increasing numbers of emergencies being admitted at night and during weekends.