Gas Colic Woes

Looking for ideas (or maybe a better description is grasping at straws)… I have a coming 17 year old ISH mare that has a colic history. I brought her home August of 2014 - we have our own small farm. I knew her previously however, as she used to belong to a friend - no colic history when she had her, however she was much younger - I don’t know if she did with the owners in between friend and I. She first colicked on me January 5/15. Mild impaction, chalked it up to not drinking enough to keep up with a major downswing in the temperatures (think -5C to -35C in less than 48 hours). Vet came and gave banamine, and mineral oil and gas emulsion via naso-gastral tube, and though she was slow to start passing manure that time and slow to start drinking, she was comfortable from that point on and we got her cleared up. In early June of the same year she colicked again - was much more accutely uncomfortable, had a different vet out (in our province the large animal vets come from the dept of agriculture - we dont have the choice of which one comes in an emergency), did the same procedure, though as soon as the tranq wore off she was back to pooping, so kind of assumed that one was gas. At this point she’s on small amounts of hi fat hi fibre grain, always coupled with soaked alfalfa/timothy cubes and loose salt and electrolytes, maximum turnout 10-12 hours+ a day, and pretty much free choice hay / forage. Both these colics were in the morning, the June colic was also associated with a temp drop but nothing as extreme. Make it to November of that year, and at 8pm one average temperature night and shes looking uncomfortable again. This time I am prepared - I give her a dose of banamine granuales that I have leftover from the last episode, a tube of emergency 911 paste that someone had recommended, and a bottle gas emulsion via syringe. I put the vet on standby, but lo and behold, within an hour or so she’s pooping and back to her normal self - she is a weaver, so when she stops weaving in her normal weave scenarios I know something’s up; when she starts again, I know the storm has passed.

Fast forward to 2017. We got thru the entirety of 2016 and all its crazy weather and even a trip out for training (where she was more high anxiety than usual) without a hitch. We have no arena at home so we don’t work in the winter, but they are still out 10-12 hours a day and overnight if we have a nice mild calm night. The fluctuations in temp have been present, but not always extreme. In early February we were bringing them in to feed one night when I noticed she was laying down beside her round bale. Unusual since she should be standing at the gate looking for supper, so I knew right away something was wrong. Lo and behold, colicky again. Administered the same routine and watched - within an hour she had pooped but was still clearly uncomfortable. Talked to the vet and we agreed that all they could do on farm was mineral oil and more emulsion, but she did not appear to be impacted, seemed like gas. Walked and such. She came around once and then started to worry me again, but then came around again. I finally went inside for a bit to let her rest (she likes to lay down but doesnt roll, so we let her); when hubby checked her an hour and a half later she was on her feet, and an hour after that was weaving and looking for breakfast. okay, gas colic, one off, whatever - frustrating, but it had been a while so no biggie right? She’s just a sensitive soul. Mmhmm.
Two nights ago she was colicky again at supper time (which is late evening around here). We did have a big cold snap on the weekend, colder than it had been for weeks - but Monday was more mild, even at night, and with no wind I was actually going to leave them out so they could chow on their round bales all night at will (we have 6 here total). She’s in the turnout closest to the house and I could tell before I even got off the deck that it was happening. Bring her in, same routine, same basic result as last time. Banamine kicks in, she has a poop and pee, lays back down. I got her up and took her for a walk then let her lay down and rest again. I can hear her gut sounds (both with stethoscope and my bare ear), and she has enough big farts that its gotta be gas. I listen up by her ceacum and that’s where the gas sounds like it’s pinging, so I was a little nervous but she seemed to be progressing so I continued to wait to see how she progressed. This time instead of sitting in her stall with her the entire time, I went in and out of the house at intervals so I could turn the lights off and let the others settle and see if she would rest, because it seemed that the resting is what brought her around the previous time. By morning she is completely fine and raring to go back outside with a normal amount of manure in her stall (she was up on her feet and looking much more spry halfway thru the night). Both episodes lasted about 5 hours.

If you are still reading at this point I commend and thank you. I have talked to the vets, but our equine specialist retired last year and they haven’t replaced him. The other large animal vets are great at the process of treating an impaction, but we only have one that’s really any good at trouble shooting other forms of colic (or anything horsey for that matter) and he’s super backed up. Now we have another specialist who comes once a month from away, so I will be trying to get her in to see her next month, but in the meantime I need some more outside educated opinions on what else I can do, or what I could be looking at here. Two colics in 6 weeks has me pretty worried.

Her current feed situation is:
A round bale outside with a slow feed net (that she is fine at manipulating)
Lots of hay inside
Half a quart of hi fat hi fibre twice a day, with a quart of timothy or timothy/alfalfa cubes soaked in a mash
Gets a tablespoon of loose mineral salt every feeding, gets 30mls Heathly Coat and 1 scoop of a glucosamine powder in her evening feed (Omega Alpha GLS powder)
Always has access to water and is a good drinker - water is always kept from freezing. Last colic in question she had drank lots as hubby had filled the tub she shares with pony both in the morning and afternoon, and had witnessed her drinking thru the day.
Easy keeper

The only difference from last year to now is no electrolytes - but it has been that way at least 5 months. I put her back on probiotics starting today, and can start the electrolytes again, but I would like to figure this out without the spray and pray approach.

Our vet department leaves a little to be desired right now - our equine specialist retired last year, and they have not replaced him. We do have another specialist from another province coming in once a month, and I’m trying to get her in to see that doctor for a whole health checkup next month - but in the meantime could use some more educated equine opinions. Don’t get me wrong, the vets we have access to are mostly great - just not so great a troubleshooting a mystery like this.

Before retiring last year, the specialist we had didn’t think she needed to be scoped for ulcers, but that is certianly something I will be discussing with the new one next month.

If you’ve made it to the end of this, you get a fictional coth medal and I’m eager to hear your ideas. So go!

To be honest, rather than scope and wait for results, I would just do a full month of ulcer treatment right away. I had an OTTB who presented a lot like you are describing, and it was very linked to weather changes.

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My gas colicky guy was very much helped by jogging on the lunge which moved the gas in the right direction, and failing that a shot of buscopan from the vet. Vet might sell you a bottle.
[h=3]Colic Pain Management - Hagyard Equine Medical Institute[/h] PDF

"Buscopan (N-butylscopolammonium bromide) (0.15-0.3 mg/kg IV, or 67.5-135 mg/450kg) is a newer addition to the colic treatment arsenal. Buscopan is used in human medicine to provide relief to patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. According to the manufacturer Buscopan relaxes smooth muscles for control of abdominal pain associated with spasmodic colic, flatulent colic and simple impactions. Conversations with the equine field service veterinarians at Ohio State indicates Buscopan is effective in treating “gas colic”, but does not provide appreciable relief in other types of colic. Due to the mild relief provided in patients not suffering from spasmodic or flatulent colic, use of Buscopan is not likely to mask escalating symptoms. I am told rectal palpation is much easier in the presence of Buscopan and this is the primary reason for its use. Due to its anticholinergic effects, Buscopan produces an increase in heart rate for up to 30 minutes following administration, making evaluation of the patient’s comfort level somewhat more difficult during this period. "

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I boarded with a horse who used to get gas colic unless he had daily yoghurt (half a 500ml tub 2x day). I offered the owner a bucket of yeast as something to try that would be easier to manage, but I moved my horse before the results were in.

​​​My occasionally gassy boy seems to do better when he’s getting Biotic 8. I usually don’t give it to him in the winter, but he recently had a bad one and didn’t really get back to himself until he’d had the Biotic 8 for a few days. He used to get gassy after about an hour on grass, but I give him Biotic 8 daily when he has grass access and he’s been fine with up to six hours of grazing in one day. That’s really the only thing I have changed. He has always been a good drinker, gets his feed soaked, free choice hay. I do keep him blanketed a bit warmer than my other horses, but that’s for his attitude; I haven’t seen a temperature correlation with his gas.

Do you include annual deworming for tapes in your parasite program? Nearly a quarter of recurrent gas colics are tapeworm related:

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Give each horse one level tablespoon of arm&hammer baking soda each day. Put it in the feed with some water or applesauce or molasses. It helps prevent gas colic. And chia seeds help prevent all types of colic. Give the chia seeds dry, do not soak them.

Nothing is perfect prevention, but the baking soda and chia seeds increase the odds against gas colic.

Thanks for the Buscopan information. Sounds like something I might try with my gas colic specialist.

To the OP, you can try some atravet (acepromazine) tranquilizer. I’ve found this to be helpful with my case. To relax the entire horse helps. When in pain, everything tightens up and tenses up, and the horse becomes more stressed, and seems to make everything worse in a vicious circle. You can buy it from your vet in oral or injectable, and the injectable stuff can go oral if necessary. I’ve also found that removing any high protein source from the diet has helped… straight grass hay only. Mine is fine on the hayfields as winter pasture (24/7) that has browned off dead alfalfa stalks, but our alfalfa/grass hay cut off these same fields (which is cut at prime time summer and is about 18% protein) will make her sick. And it’s lovely hay, that doesn’t make other horses sick. Like yours, mine also gets high fat, low protein kibble (step 8), but not much. Since you have limited the protein in your grain ration, make sure you are similarly limiting protein in your hay. Both count. Mine is also temperature sensitive, hot weather and direct sunshine in summer can also trigger her gas colic, she MUST have shade. No problem with cold weather. These sensitive ones will respond if you can figure them out, what triggers them. Vets don’t know them like you do, and I have received little valuable advice from any vet that does not know my mare. Treating for ulcers may help too, but unless you can effect the underlying cause of the ulcers, they will come back. Treat the root cause, not just the symptoms.

Xtra-strength Gas-X. 1 tablet per 100 lbs., recommended by our vet for years. Any horse in our barn who shows anything that could be a sign of colic gets it. Won’t hurt the horse at all if they don’t need it. And often times it has turned things around.

I have a horse that from time to time has had chronic gas colic. I took him to A&M vet clinic for full work up a couple of years ago. It was ulcers as I suspected. I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t something else… I treat him periodically for ulcers and use the abler blue granules at maintenance dose. He gets 3 flakes of alfalfa a day along with other hay and feed. He is always on electrolytes. Knock on wood-we have had a long period without a gas colic.

Just in case I keep a bottle of banamine around and have also had my vet prepare a few syringes of Buscopan to keep on hand. I found that the Buscopan expired before I used more than a syringe full. My gracious vet will pull 2 or 3 doses in syringes and let me keep them on hand. If they expire, well I haven’t lost much.

Thanks everyone these are great suggestions! I couldn’t manage to get a moment to log in yesterday so it’s nice to see the flood of information. I will definitely ask about the Buscopan, and discuss having tranquilizer on hand as well (I usually have a tube of oral dorm, but I don’t know if that would be the type to use in this case - I’m sure they would set me up with some ace). I completely agree that getting her to relax during the episode seems to be key. I also keep her blanketed warmer than the others - she is more temperature sensitive overall, for sure. We haven’t done our spring deworming yet as we are mostly still below zero (or well below zero) full time, but when I have her worked up I will have her fecals done again and deworm accordingly. Also will look into the baking soda and gas-x. Is the Gas-x something that get’s administered at the time of colicking or as a preventative?
Another good point is the hay - visibly it is mostly timothy, but I will have is tested to be sure. I hope it doesn’t present a problem though, as we live in an area that doesn’t really custom blend hay and we buy direct from two farmers - finding good hay sources is difficult enough, I can’t imagine the struggle to find a specific type. So fingers crossed.

FYI, tapeworms do not regularly show up on fecal egg counts. Use a product with praziquantel for your spring deworming to target them. (Equimax, Quest Plus, etc.)

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So, an obvious disclaimer that my boy’s story may not be ANYTHING like your mare’s!!

My guy (big, stout, QH/drafty ranch horse) was always bomb proof about food - no problems.
Until he wasn’t.
He started with colics-- Rectals, banamine, buscapan. Poop sample neg for parasites. Finally I quit with the flaked hay and he started with soaked tim/alfalfa bagged hay, and senior feed (soaked). Got that three times a day which helped a lot.
And then it didn’t.
Many colic episodes, vet suspected a lymphoma of some sort which, given that he was north of 26, we were not operating on. But flaked hay definitely set him off.
So finally, he was getting soaked hay (6x day) senior feed “tea” (senior feed with a LOT of warm water) (4x day) grazing (seasonal but spring summer and fall 3x day - he had Cushings also) 3 walks a day, and a “medicine” which was a mix of mineral oil, DSS electrolyte and water–likely NOT appropriate for phrophylactic use in most horses but this was pretty much palliative care and he did really well. I put him down last fall when vet feared an ugly scenario looming for him. But through all that he got 2 years, and most of them really nice days with his buddies.

That’s the quick version but I will say, for him, cutting the flaked hay helped, DEFINITELY buscapan with the banamine, and for the last six mos of his life, that “poop medicine.” I of ourse, loved our daily walks (3x day across the fields) not sure if they helped or not but I like to think so Helped me anyway!

I really hope you find something that works for your girl! It’s so scary when you don’t know what’s wrong!


lilitiger2, I feel like that might be her end game as well, but I’m fairly certain we have a few more years before we have to get that extreme. I’m so sorry you lost your boy. I’m definitely going to be inquiring about the buscapan.
I’m also looking into installing a camera above her stall so that when it does happen, I can monitor her from inside without having to disturb her when she looks better - and also being able to know when to run out if it gets worse. She really does seem to settle more and improve faster when I/we aren’t looming over her, but I’m always afraid I’ll lose valuable time if she does take a turn.
The weather has been nice for a few days so they have been out 24/7. Everyone seems to be a little perkier, a little more content. They want spring as much as we do, I’m certain! At least today is the first day of it on paper!