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Sand colic is the result of the building up of sand in the intestinal tract of the horse. There can be as much as 150 pounds of sand lying in the bottom of the horse's belly.
The pain from sand is caused primarily by two methods. The sand presses on the bottom of the intestine, preventing blood from entering the area (Just like when you press on your fingernail, the pinkness (blood) goes away). This causes the long term, low grade pain that can cause a horse to eat poorly without ever really acting colicky. You know how it feels to not get enough blood to an area if you have ever tied a rubber band around a finger for very long.
the sand can build up to the point that
it totally blocks a loop of intestine. At this point, the horse becomes very
painful from the buildup of hay and water in front of the blockage. Once this
pressure builds to
COLIC IS PREVENTABLE
Prevention of sand intake sounds simple, but often heroic efforts are fruitless. Horses eat sand whenever there is sand below where they eat. If they are fed in feeders that are not big enough for them to spread out the feed, they will pull the feed out and put it where it can be spread out, usually on the ground.
Horses lick their lips between nearly every bite of hay. If the horses eat off the ground, every time these wet lips touch the ground, the dirt will stick to the lips and be consumed with the next mouthful of hay. Some horses simply must vacuum up every last morsel of hay and in doing so, they also vacuum up quite a quantity of sand. Horses in pasture that pull up the grass, roots and all, get a mouthful of dirt with the roots.
Young horses all seem to go through a stage, as do people, dogs, and many other domesticated species, where they feel that they need to eat dirt, often by the handful. This behavior in young is normal and you cannot stop the desire until they outgrow it.
The overt eating of dirt in adult horses is not normal. It is often found that there is some form of deficiency in the adult's diet. The mose common is the lack of salt or other mineral deficiency. Stress and boredom can also drive an adult horse to eat dirt.
After exercise, feeds play the next major role in moving the sand out. Concentrates such as grains and vitamin supplements do nothing to remove sand. Roughages such as alfalfa, timothy, coastal, and other hays are the traditional source of fiber for horses. Hay alone can move through a small amount of sand just fine.
Bran (Red Flakey Wheat Chaff) can be added to the diet to help with the sand problem. Keep in mind that bran is high in Calcium and low in Phosphorus and as such must be used in moderation unless feeding alfalfa as the primary roughage. Bran has also been implicated in a few articles as increasing the incidence of the enteroliths (horse pearls, intestinal stones, rocks).
is the best feed stuff known for the prevention of sand colic. Psyllium cannot
cause enteroliths. It
Many horse owners feed oil to their horses. Most do it for the nutritional benefit (increased weight, shinier coat, etc.). Some mistakenly belive that it will help move through sand. Plant oils (vegetable, corn, safflower, etc.) are digested and absorbed long before they get to the sand. They do not lubricate the digestive tract. Mineral oil (liquid paraffin) is not digested or absorbed. It tastes terrible to most horses. Horses will not voluntarily eat mineral oil. Mineral oil does help loosed up tightly bound sand, but it does not move it out as well as psyllium.
OF SAND COLIC
Weight loss is also commonly seen with sand in the intestinal tract. Sand, when not bounced around, can form a hard lump almost like a form-fitted piece of cement in the bottom of the intestines. This sand covers a portion of the intestinal wall preventing nutrient absorption in that area. The pain from the weight of the sand (and also from frequent plugging up) will often cause the horse to be less interested in eating. Such horses can lose weight rapidly.
Sand can sometimes be heard by listening to the very lowest part of the belly. The sound it makes is much like the sound you hear when underwater at the beach. Sand whooshing through the intestine is unmistakable once you hear it. Keep in mind that if it is whooshing throuhg, that is fine, it is the sand that is not moving that is dangerous.
If there is much sand at the bottom of the jar, it means that your horse is moving a lot of sand through (or you used manure that had touched dirt). This is good in that at least it is coming out. Prevention of ingestion must be increased.
If there is no sand at the bottom, it means either your horse is not eating any sand or that your horse is not passing the sand it has eaten. In either case, repeat the test several times. If it is negative every time, use psyllium every day for a week, testing daily. If still no sand, then your horse probably is not eating sand.
Exercise is the best way to loosen a sand-induced impaction. Walk your horse and jog a few steps every now and then to really shake up the intestines. Do not let the horse become exhausted.
Be certain to offer water every few minutes. Water is the key to flushing out sand. It is nearly impossible to get sand of a severly dehydrated horse.
Bran is a good first aid for sand colic. Besides being a good source of fiber, bran is a great way to get more water in the horse. Make up a bran mash as wet as it can be ("bran soup").
It is impossible
to overfeed bran when the horse is colicking. Getting the horse over the acute
stages of sand colic is much more important than the small nutritional aberration
from eating forty pounds of bran. If your
The salivary and respiratory tracts of the horse are designed for feed to be eaten with the head down. The chance of choke, colic, and respiratory diseases is increased when horses eat out of feeders above ground level.
Horses need to have a feeder that allows the spreading and shaking of feed without spilling onto the dirt. The ideal is some sort of enclosure at ground level large enough (at least 3 ft.) to spread feed out and with high enough sides (measure from the ground to the base of the neck with head down) to prevenet feed from coming out. This type of feeder also makes feeding easier in that even people with poor aim can throw a flake into such a large target.
A salt block is a necessity in many parts of the country. Salt blocks come in many formulations (colors). Generally, a white or brown block is best. Consult your veterinarian for the best type of salt block for your area. The larger salt blocks tend to be the most economical as long as they are kept out of the moisture. Often horses that are bored learn how fun it is top chew up the smaller salt blocks. It appears they get bored with trying to eat the entire large block and go on to some other toy.
Boredom alone can lead to eating of dirt. Place as many safe toys in your horse's area as practical. Tires, rubber road cones, milk jugs tied to a rafter (with a few rocks as rattles) and similar items can greatly relieve the boredom of sitting in a stall all day.
Moving sand out once
it is ingested can be accomplished by two things: vigorous exercise and feeding
psyllium. The exercise shakes up the intestinal
contents mixing it with the psyllium that keeps it from