horse emergency

How do I prevent sand colic?

Sand colic occurs when high levels of sand and dirt are ingested and accumulate in the horse’s digestive tract. However, even small amounts of sand can irritate the gut wall so, by far, prevention is the best way to avoid the dangerous consequences of sand colic.  Here are a few simple ways to prevent sand colic in your horse.  Five ways to prevent sand colic  Don’t feed directly off the ground  When consuming hay and grain off the ground, your horse can ingest sand and dirt, particularly when grazing on loose, sandy soil. For all horses, and especially those in high risk areas, use a feeder to prevent sand ingestion. Concrete and rubber matting are also beneficial if your horse spills their feed. Try to avoid feeding your horse in sandy environments, like your riding arena. Provide plenty of water  When your horse is dehydrated, moisture is leached away from their digestive tract, allowing sand and dirt to accumulate. Every horse should have access to fresh, clean drinking water throughout the day and night. Water and forage, including hay and grass, will keep your horse hydrated, which promotes proper digestion and movement of intestinal contents. Forage – the foundation of a good diet  In nature, horses spend up to 18 hours per day grazing, which has immense benefits for their health and wellbeing. A forage-first diet is essential for every horse, including performance horses. Providing your horse with free-choice forage, such as hay, will support digestive function and prevent sand accumulation. Use a slow feeder or hay net for a longer lasting ration. Manage your pastures wisely  Over-grazed pastures and sandy soils place your horse at greater risk of sand colic. Pasture management is key to sustainable horse keeping. Rotating pastures regularly will encourage healthy grass growth and prevent over-grazing. If your horse is kept on pasture that is quite short, supplement their grazing with hay to reduce the burden. Consider adding psyllium  Finally, feeding the high-fibre dietary laxative psyllium can aid the movement of sand from the digestive tract of horses at risk of sand colic. Read the label carefully and follow dosage instructions. Only use psyllium on an as needed basis as studies have shown prolonged use is ineffective. We also recommend you consult your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist for advice.

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What is colic and how do I prevent it?

There are many types of colic, each with its own causes, treatment and prevention. Generally, colic is defined as any abnormal gastrointestinal pain in horses. With careful management and a commitment to your horse’s health, colic may be prevented.  Causes of Colic  The horse has the most poorly designed digestive system out of any animal, which makes them highly susceptible to colic – from stomach distension to impaction colic. Unfortunately, this means even a simple change in feed can lead to colic if not managed correctly. There are several common causes of colic, including: Ineffective worm control Sudden feed changes Dehydration Mouldy or tainted feed Dental problems or poor dental care High-grain, low-forage diets Prolonged use of NSAIDs Sand or dirt ingestion Stress  Signs of Colic As a horse owner, it’s imperative that you’re familiar with your horse’s normal vital signs and behaviour. In some cases, horses may exhibit no outward signs at all, so the only indication of colic may be a variation in heart rate, respiratory rate or rectal temperature. The most common signs of colic are: Pawing at the ground Looking around at the flank Frequently laying down and getting up Rolling Curling the upper lip Playing in the water trough, but not drinking Keeping the head to ground while walking in circles Increased heart rate or breathing rate Excessive sweating around the flanks or shoulders Loss of interest in food or water  The absence of gut sounds is serious and may also indicate colic.  Preventing Colic  There are several important horse management practices that will support your horse’s health and wellbeing, and aid in preventing colic. These are: Provide your horse with the three F’s daily – friends, forage and freedom Feed your horse at the same times each day and keep to this schedule Feed several smaller meals as opposed to one large meal Make gradual changes to your horse’s diet, including feed, hay and pasture Ensure your horse has unlimited access to fresh, clean drinking water daily Implement effective worming programs on your property Check feed storage regularly for signs of mould, vermin, etc. If respiratory issues are a concern, wet your horse’s feed prior to feeding Maintain dental health, including a dental examination at least once per year Utilise feed bins and buckets to avoid sand or dirt ingestion at feeding time  

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Psyillium Husks

Should I feed my horse psyllium husks?

Derived from the husk of the psyllium seed, commercial psyllium products are promoted as aids to eliminate sand from the horse’s digestive system. However, numerous studies into the effectiveness of psyllium husks have uncovered some findings worth exploring. Regardless of where you live, your horse will ingest dirt and sand each day when grazing and eating directly from the ground. This increases the risk of sand colic, where dirt and sand build up within the digestive system, leading to potentially severe digestive upset, such as impaction. While feeding psyllium husks is not harmful to your horse, several studies indicate that long-term use reduces its efficiency to rid your horse’s digestive tract of dirt and sand build-up. Instead, microbes in the bowel start to ingest psyllium husks as a fiber source. Consulting your veterinarian is an important first step in determining whether you should feed psyllium husks and how much your horse requires. There are a number of clinical tests your veterinarian is also able to perform if you have concerns about sand ingestion. However, like most health problems, prevention is certainly better than cure. Anywhere there is sand, decomposed granite, or gravel, the risks of sand colic increase. Similarly, soft footing areas in paddocks and arenas can lead to sand ingestion. To protect your horse from the risk of sand colic, you should: Do you have questions about your horse’s diet? Call us today on (07) 4511 4554 to speak with one of our qualified veterinarians about a diet consultation for your horse. Click here to learn more about our nutrition and diet services.

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How to Respond in an Equine Emergency

No matter how much we try to protect our horses, the chances are high that you’ll be confronted with a situation requiring immediate first aid care. In this article, we outline the first response steps you should take when you encounter an emergency.  When bringing a new horse home, one of the most important considerations is safety. Every horse owner should have a well stocked first aid kit at their property and a plan in place for emergencies, including extreme weather events. Before an Emergency During an Emergency First Aid Kit Every horse owner should keep a well-stocked first aid kit containing: If your horse is in the care of a friend or neighbor, ensure they know where to find the first aid kit and what to do in an emergency.

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