Western Counties Equine Clinic is one of the few centres in the South west that has the facilities and a team on standby at all times.
The majority of horses that get colic do not require surgery and can be managed medically. However, should medical management not be successful or is inappropriate then surgery may be indicated.
Colic surgery involves a general anaesthetic and an ‘exploratory laparotomy’ – an incision into the abdomen – to determine the source of the abdominal pain that presents with clinical signs of colic.
Colic surgery requires as a minimum two scrubbed surgeons and an anaesthetist and appropriate nursing support. In addition appropriate facilities and staff are required during the post-operative period, which can involve some intensive nursing and medical care of the horse.
We accept referrals of horses that have not been seen in the first instance by one of our vets. Referrals can only be accepted following contact by the first opinion vet on a strictly ethical basis. The horse is referred back to the first opinion vet on discharge following treatment.
In many cases exploratory laparotomy reveals the cause of the abdominal pain. This often relates to a physical obstruction of the bowel that prevents ingesta transiting through the bowel. Obstructions can be caused in a number of ways including narrowing of the bowel intself (strictures), compression of the bowel from outwith the bowel wall ( a common cause in older horses is the ‘pedunculated lipoma’ ) or strangulation of the bowel or displacement or twisting of a portion of bowel. There are many other causes of colic that require surgical intervention, but the key in very many cases is to perform surgery without undue delay. This will minimise the amount of damage to the bowel and limit the level of toxaemia that can result in cases that are perhaps not examined in the early stages.
Nationally published results demonstrate that approximately 70% of cases survive the initial surgery and immediate post operative period. Success is very often dependent on early diagnosis and treatment. It is often better for an owner to request a veterinary examination sooner rather than later, even if the colic signs are abating by the time the veterinary surgeon has arrived.
Post operative care after discharge
Each individual case will have specific care required. Having had a large incision into the abdomen we usuallt recommend 6 weeks box rest followed by 6 weeks turnout into a small paddock. After this period exercise can usually be resumed. However, it is important that the instructions given for each individual horse are following rigorously.
Colic surgery is demanding in terms of staffing, facilities, surgical costs, medicines and after care.
For this reason reason the costs incurred can escalate rapidly. We recommend that you should discuss costs prior to surgery.