BarnManager Horse Health Series: An Owner’s Guide to Colic Surgery Recovery

Every owner dreads having to decide whether or not to send their horse onto the surgical table for colic surgery. Before that difficult moment occurs, it is important that the horse’s owner or caretaker understands what to expect throughout the recovery process. Keep reading to find out what you need to know about colic surgery recovery from board-certified equine surgeon Dr. Weston Davis of Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, FL.

Stages After Surgery

Immediately Post-Surgery

As soon as a horse is up and returns to its stall at the veterinary clinic where the surgery was performed, careful monitoring begins, including physical health evaluations, bloodwork, and often, advanced imaging. Physical exams will be conducted at least four times per day to evaluate the incision and check for any signs of fever, laminitis, lethargy, and to ensure good hydration status. An abdominal ultrasound may be done several times per day to check the health of the gut, and a tube may be passed into the stomach to check for reflux and accumulating fluid.

Before the horse can be discharged, it must be regularly passing manure and back on a semi-normal diet.

Returning Home

Veterinarians often recommend the use of an elastic belly band to support the horse’s incision site during transport from the clinic and while recovering at home. Different types of belly bands offer varying levels of support. Some simply provide skin protection, while others are able to support the healing of the abdominal wall.

Two Weeks Post-Surgery 

Photo by Jump Media

At the 12-to-14-day benchmark, the sutures will be removed from the horse’s incision site. The incision site is continuously checked for signs of swelling, small hernias, and infection. 

At-Home Recovery

When the horse is home, the priority is to continue monitoring the incision and return them to a normal diet if that has not already been accomplished.

The first two weeks of recovery after the horse has returned home is spent on stall rest with free-choice water and hand grazing. After this period, the horse can spend a month being turned out in a small paddock or kept in a turn-out stall. They normally return to full turnout during the third month. Hand-walking and grazing is permittable during all stages of the at-home recovery process. After the horse has been home for three months, the horse is likely to be approved for riding.

Generally, when a horse reaches the six-month mark in their recovery, the risk of adverse internal complications is very low, and the horse can return to full training under saddle.

When to Call the Vet?

After colic surgery horses should be monitored closely throughout all stages of recovery for signs of unusual behavior. Decreased water intake, abnormal manure output, fever, pain, or discomfort are all signals that a veterinarian should be consulted immediately.

Long-Term Care

In most cases of colic surgery, patients that properly progress in the first two weeks after the procedure will go on to make a full recovery and successfully return to their previous level of training and competition.

Depending on the specifics of the colic, however, some considerations need to be made for long-term care. For example, if the horse had sand colic, the owner would be counseled to avoid sand and offer the horse a selenium supplement to prevent a possible relapse. In large intestinal colic cases, dietary restrictions may be recommended as a prophylactic measure. Also, horses that crib can be predisposed to epiploic foramen entrapment, which is when the bowel becomes stuck in a defect in the abdomen. This could result in another colic incident, so cribbing prevention is key.

Generally, a horse that has fully recovered from colic surgery is no less healthy than it was before the colic episode. While no one wants their horse to go through colic surgery, owners and caretakers should understand the recovery process to help ensure the horse successfully returns to health.

NOTE: These guidelines are only suggestions, and you should always follow the specific instructions from your veterinarian.  

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

BarnManager Horse Health Series: Understanding Equine Ulcers

Equine ulcers are a common concern for horse owners. In order to effectively treat and prevent equine ulcers, it is important for owners, managers, riders, and grooms to understand the types, symptoms, and causes. Keep reading to find out more about equine ulcers courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, FL.

What are equine ulcers?

Equine ulcers are sores that form on the stomach lining of a horse. They can be broken down into three categories: gastric ulcer disease of the squamous mucosa, gastric ulceration of the glandular mucosa, and colon ulcers of the right dorsal colon.

Equine gastric ulcer disease of the squamous mucosa refers to ulcers found on the stomach’s inner lining and are mainly caused by exposure to stomach acid. This type of ulcer is often seen in performance horses due to exercise and abdominal pressure.

Gastric ulceration of the glandular mucosa is often found on the stomach lining around the pyloric region closer to the intestines. Ulcers found here are typically caused by stress.

Similarly, the last type of equine ulcer, which is found in the colon, is also mainly due to stress.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of equine ulcers often do not present the same way in every horse. The signs can also range from mild to severe. A few major symptoms to look for are poor appetite, attitude changes, decreased performance, poor body condition, and weight loss.

How do veterinarians diagnose equine ulcers?

Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

There are a variety of diagnostic tools that veterinarians use for equine ulcers. One option is a Succeed test which is a fecal test that helps indicate the presence of ulcers. Another option is to perform a gastroscopy to see the stomach where both forms of gastric ulcers are found. Ultrasound is the primary diagnostic tool to look for thickening of the right dorsal colon wall indicating ulceration in the colon. Basic bloodwork to determine total albumin, a protein made by the liver, also helps indicate more severe cases of colon ulcers.

How are equine ulcers treated?

Since each type of equine ulcer has a different underlying cause, the treatment is different. Omeprazole paste is a common treatment option for equine ulcers. Veterinarians may use this in conjunction with other medications depending on the type of ulcer. For horses that have ulcers of the squamous mucosa it is common to add a dose of sucralfate before meals to the horse’s treatment plan. If the horse has ulcers in the glandular and pyloric region of the stomach, misoprostol and prostaglandin analog is used. For ulcers of the right dorsal colon, sucralfate is used as a coating agent while misoprostol is used as a treatment.

How can they be prevented?

In addition to medication, lifestyle changes can also help horses recover from equine ulcers and prevent them from reoccurring. Providing a more stress-free environment or allowing the horse to have downtime after competition can help. Also, turnout and giving your horse grazing time are extremely important for horses that are prone to ulcers.

Ulcers are a common problem in performance horses due to stress and constant exercise. Understanding the basics of ulcers will make it easier for you to quickly identify them and help prevent them for a happier, healthier horse. For a more in-depth explanation of equine ulcers, click HERE to read the full article from Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Five Tips for a Shiny Summer Coat

As an equestrian, nothing beats someone telling you that your horse has a beautiful coat. Now that spring is here and horses are beginning to shed out, it is time to start thinking about how to get their coat looking healthy and shiny for the summer. Keep reading for a few of BarnManager’s favorite tips for a fantastic summer coat.

1. Groom Properly

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to give your horse a shiny coat is to groom them properly. This is especially important if they were not clipped during the winter and are shedding out. Grooming your horse is not only good exercise and helpful for their coat, but it also gives you time to check for any new bumps or scratches. Start with currying your horse, which loosens all the dirt and dead hair and brings out the natural oils. This step is essential for a healthy-looking coat. Next, use a hard brush to get all of the dirt and dead hair off of your horse and also distribute the oils. Going over your horse afterwards with a towel will grab any dirt or dust that was left behind and ensure that your horse’s coat is lying flat. It is also important to clean your grooming tools regularly because dirt builds up quickly, and you do not want to spread it while brushing your horse.

2. Good Diet

A shiny coat often starts from within. A balanced diet is key to making sure your horse has a gleaming coat this summer. It is important to feed good hay that has a nice green color and is not dried out or dusty. Hay is an extremely important part of a horse’s diet because it provides nutrients. Adding supplements into your horse’s feed can also be beneficial. For example, Vitamin E and selenium are two supplements that can help your horse’s coat. If you are not sure your horse has a balanced diet or is getting proper nutrients, consider talking with a nutritionist.

3. Do Not Over Bathe

When it gets warmer it is easy to bathe horses too frequently, especially if they are grey. While it may seem like a good idea to keep them clean, it can dry out their skin and coat. Also, legs that are are not dried properly can be susceptible to scratches and other skin conditions. If your horse does get warm after exercise, try sponging and toweling off where they are sweaty or putting fans in front of them so they dry faster. For owners of grey horses, spot removers are useful for removing stained areas without doing a full bath. If you must bathe your horse during the hot months of summer, consider using conditioner instead of shampoo. This will help moisturize the coat instead of drying it out. When applying, avoid the saddle area as this will make it very slippery. Also, do not put conditioner in the mane or tail if you plan on braiding your horse for a competition in the near future.

4. Protect From the Sun

During the spring, summer, and early fall a horse’s coat can often get sun bleached from being turned out, especially if the paddock is not well-shaded. This can be solved by either doing night turnout or getting a fly sheet to protect your horse from the sun as well as flies. A fly sheet may also help keep your horse a little cleaner so you can avoid daily baths.

5. Invest in a Coat Shine Product

To add a little extra gleam to your horse’s coat, purchase a coat shine product. There are many options that can help make your horse’s coat soft, shiny, and healthy. These sprays often contain conditioner that moisturizes the coat. Make sure to check the ingredients and avoid any products containing silicone, which can actually dry out the coat. Similar to applying conditioner during a bath, be careful about avoiding the area where the saddle goes.

Whether or not you plan on showing, a beautiful, healthy, and shiny coat is something that all horse owners can achieve. Test out these tips this spring to get your horse’s coat looking its best.

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!