WHAT IS COLIC? This term is used to describe any abdominal pain your horse may be experiencing. It can be mild or severe. The cause? A variety of scenarios that result most commonly in excessive intestinal GAS or..... an IMPACTION. In human terms CONSTIPATION!
One early evening a few years ago while hanging around "The Barn" on Canal Road, Pembroke with my dad, I watched him put a large pot on an old oven shelf on top of cinder blocks outside. Lighting the coals or wood underneath, he started cooking a concoction, which included a brownish powdery substance from a bag. The contents of the pot? Old fashioned bran, linseed oil (flaxseed), water and probably some salt. Curious me asked questions and was rewarded with an answer I remember to this day....... this would help his horse to poop!
You see, this time of year when temperatures dip to the low to mid 50's at night (with the wind chill factor making it seem lower) IT'S COLD weather for us here in Bermuda. Imagine what horses here are feeling? Yes they grow a thicker winter coat, but break out the horse blankets especially if they are clipped!! Whenever my dad brought in his Standardbred horse from training for harness racing back in the day, he would sponge off sweat with water, use a sweat scraper, rub him down with dry burlap sac bags or a towel, then out came the horse blanket and into the stall (with minimal drafts) "Mighty Barns" went. Periodically he was fed a warm bran mash along with plenty of hay.
Like us, horses don't like drinking cold water in cold weather. Urine appears a bit darker and dehydration may set in if we are not careful. This is a common cause of colic in horses during the cold winter in some countries. With reduced water intake, dry feed backs up in their 50 - 70 foot long GI (gastrointestinal tract), which normally contains 10 - 12 gallons of water at any one time. This can be extremely painful to a horse. Bran mashes have traditionally been used to keep a horse regular, but don't overdo it. One school of thought says it upsets the normal bacteria in the GI, which can become a problem, while other horsemen feed a little bran everyday. Still others simply add warm water and mineral oil to their daily ration.
WHAT ARE THE COLIC CLINICAL SIGNS/SYMPTOMS TO LOOK FOR? Most owners and stable managers know when their horse is acting abnormally, which can include any combination of the following, although #7 by itself is a dead giveaway....
1. Stops Eating (and Drinking)
2. Reduced (or Dry) Feces
3. Pawing the Ground
4. Stretching or "Parking Out"
7. Looking at the Belly
Yes, often walking or lunging your horse can help rid it of gas and/or get its bowels moving. However, if you are not sure, have any questions at all or need help, the sooner you call your veterinarian the better. To ensure the best possible outcome, he/she will conduct a physical exam, may perform a rectal exam, pump water into your horse's stomach, administer pain medications, give an IV drip, or the worse case scenario...... perform surgery to correct twisted or prevent intestines from rupturing and death. Although a scary situation, your horse can survive it's number one enemy......COLIC.
Can frogs (so called in Bermuda, but actually a toad) kill my dog (or cat)? YES....THEY CAN!
While growing up, we inherited an all white female terrier cross dog named Tiny. She was trained to come when called, "sit" and maybe "lie down". She had a litter of pups and we kept one named Viera (another story for another day), who became Tiny's companion. As outside dogs they shared a dog box in a sheltered kennel. Tiny was a sweet and friendly much loved family pet, who was not aggressive, but would bark on occasion to let you know when someone was in the yard. She would bark at night too, but would settle down once you called her name. Late one night or early morning, I heard her barking, but paid no attention to it. She soon settled down. The next morning I found my dog not moving, stiff......dead. Nearby was a frog that had gotten into the kennel (because of the dog water bowl?) with blood around it's head. Tiny obviously defended herself against a hopping intruder into her territory and paid the ultimate price for it. Sadly, that was my first introduction to the hazards of Bermuda's amphibian inhabitant Bufo marinus.
Imported from Guyana, South America as a valuable biological control for garden cockroaches and centipedes during the late 1800s by Captain Nathaniel Vesey, the frog soon populated all of Bermuda because it had no natural predator. During the day it revives itself in cool damp/watery areas and hunts at night. Bee hives are subject to attack by this creature and, they even have grown men running in the opposite direction.
The natural behaviour in some dogs is to chase and capture anything that moves. The thrill of the hunt is instinctual for survival, ..... eat or die. It is important to train your dog to respond to your commands. Here is the worse case scenario - you may be out walking your dog at night, then lose sight of it. The next time you see it, it is chomping its mouth. WHAT TO DO?
If your dog is foaming at the mouth and you suspect it may have mouthed or bitten a frog, do not panic.....there IS something YOU CAN DO IMMEDIATELY! Aggressively, get household vinegar into your dog's mouth, then wipe the foam around the mouth with a vinegar soaked cloth. The vinegar (acid) is an antidote to the alkali toxin found in parotid glands behind a frog's eyes. If you do not have any vinegar, use water to rinse out your pet's mouth, contact your veterinarian and take your dog to them right away for treatment because advanced symptoms like gastrointestinal upset and cardiac issues lead to suffering and death. Do not let the fear of veterinary costs stop you from saving your dog's life.
It is said, "An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure"