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The Complications Of Colic In Horses

2665 words - 11 pages

Colic is one of the most feared conditions horse owners encounter. However, the term “colic” refers only to abdominal pain without identifying the cause of the disease. Though, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is often the cause of abdominal pain, other abnormalities may also cause a horse to exhibit signs of colic. Some gastrointestinal causes of colic include intestinal displacement of a portion of the GI tract, blockage with feed material or a foreign body and inflammation [17]. The most common factors that may cause the pain associated with colic are spasms caused by contractions of the intestine wall, and distention from a buildup of fluid or ingesta that causes expansion of the intestine and ischemia of the GI tract because of dehydration [8]. Past research studies reviewed colic cases examined by veterinarians on the farm, 46% were spasmodic colic, 29% were large intestine impactions, 11 % were undiagnosed, 8% were the result of inflammation of the small intestine and 6% were strangulating obstructions [16].
Horses are hindgut fermenters, meaning bacteria help in digestion of roughage in the cecum and large intestine [21]. The GI system of a horse measures around 100 feet. long and holds approximately 50 gallons of water and ingesta or food. The GI tract starts with the stomach, which holds up to 5 gallons of fluid or food [7,33]. Enzyme secretion and acid production are two of the primary functions of the GI tract [34]. Ingesta is passed from the stomach to the small intestine, which consists of the duodenum, jejunum and ileum [32-34]. The duodenum is where bile and pancreatic enzyme secretion occur. The jejunum is where amino acids, fatty acids, glucose, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes are absorbed. This part of the small intestine is suspended by a sheet of mesentery that is anchored via a stalk to the dorsal roof of the abdomen. This allows the jejunum to be mobile [7,33-34]. However, this mobility can lead to torsion or twisting on itself, which can cause colic or an abdominal ailment. For instance, the epiploic foramen entrapment is a type of abdominal ailment of the small intestine [1,15-16]. This entrapment can be caused by the strangulation or torsion of a piece of small intestine or jejunum [13,19,33]. Pieces of small intestine can pass through the epiploic foramen and pierce the omental bursa causing discomfort and abdominal complications in the horse [12,15-16]. The ileum is the last section of the small intestine; it is short and has a muscular wall. Food and fluid passes through the ileum then into the cecum [1,7]. The cecum is also 4 feet long. The food leaves the cecum and passes to the large colon, which is approximately 11 feet long with almost a 20-gallon capacity [7]. This part of the long intestine is responsible for long fatty acids production and microbial fermentation. The large colon accounts for 40% of the total capacity of the horses’ gut. Water and volatile fatty acids are also absorbed here. The...

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