It’s clear I’m not the only one dealing with mild recurrent colic as Equus magazine just ran their second article in as many issues on the topic. The article in the February 2014 issue described a gelding who had the courtesy to suffer an onset of symptoms while in the hospital. My pony always gets better on the way TO the hospital!
The source of the gelding’s problem was a mesenteric lipoma, “a benign tumor of fat tissue that forms on the mesentery, the thin membrane that anchors and suspends the small intestine within the horse’s abdominal cavity.” (1) Such a tumor can cause colic by either wrapping around the intestine or pressing against it. I have often wondered if something like this might be my pony’s problem, though given the success I’ve had with regular doses of highly palatable feed, it seems more likely something else is going on.
I can’t help but think there’s some connection with her being kicked in the head, for instance, which happened two weeks before her first colic episode. Perhaps a salivary gland was damaged, reducing her ability to properly digest feed. I’ve always shared the kicked-in-the-head event with the veterinarians who have seen my pony, and they haven’t found any evidence of trouble during their examinations.
The article in Equus suggested five common causes of mild recurrent colic, including enteroliths which were covered in the previous issue. Management, including feeding frequency and water supply, is another place to look, as is parasite burden. Fecal tests on my pony have always come back clean (click here for an easy-to-use mail-order fecal testing service.) Sand accumulation from particles ingested with hay fed on the ground can distend the intestine if they accumulate rather than being passed, causing pain. I have now done the standard exam of soaking a manure sample in water and examining it for grains of sand; it was clear. Gastric ulcers is another cause I’ve pondered, especially because my pony’s manure is quite hard and dark immediately following a colic episode, one sign suggesting gastric ulcers. To have the diagnostic procedure performed, because of my remote location, will require a three day commitment, so I haven’t ventured down this road, since palliative care seems to be helping.
These articles in Equus have been heartening if only because I get to read about other owners who are frustrated like I am. Perhaps in time I’ll get a better diagnosis. Now that I know, though, the extremes that owners have had to go to to get a firm diagnosis, I’ll be more grateful that the senior feed has successfully reduced symptoms.
1) Barakat, Christine. “The case of the giant tumor,” Equus issue 437, February 2014, p. 23.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2014