Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Abdomen: pain - spasmodic colic

Contributor(s): Roberta Baxter, Peter Rakestraw, Lee Pritchard

Introduction

  • Spasmodic colic is a term used to describe colic cases that involve no recognized pathology other than assumed to be abdominal pain associated with gut spasm.
  • Cause: not fully understood, but gastrointestinal parasites may be involved.
  • Signs: transient bouts of abdominal pain.
  • Diagnosis: clinical signs and response to treatment.
  • Treatment: analgesics and spasmolytics.
  • Prognosis: generally good.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Change in feeding/gut activity causing muscular spasm of intestines and thus pain.

Predisposing factors

General
  • Worms or recent deworming, especially deworming with organophosphate.
  • Exercise/transport/stress/management change.
  • Recent medication/vaccination.
  • Dietary change/the ingestion of unusual substances (often apples on access to orchard, or lush pasture, also carrots, ivy), that stimulate hypermotility.
  • Diarrhea.

Pathophysiology

  • Unknown, in approximately 60% of cases in one survey, the cause of gut spasm was not discovered.
  • Spasmodic colic can occur secondarily to worms, deeworming, excitement, stress, unusual physical activity, dietary changes, and the drinking of large amounts of cold water, eg after exercise.
  • Some horses seem to be more susceptible (or sensitive) than others to gut spasm and pain.
  • Detail unknown.
  • Primary stimulus elicits abnormal gut motility.
  • Gut hypermotility combined with lack of effective peristalsis results in localized areas of gut spasm.
  • This causes pain, and is usually transient.
  • No gut damage normally results so circulatory parameters are not affected.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Traub-Dargatz J L et al (2001) Estimate of the national incidence of and operation-level risk factors for colic among horses in the United States, spring 1998 to spring 1999. JAVMA 219 (1), 67 PubMed.
  • Proudman C J, French N P & Trees A J (1998) Tapeworm infection is a significant factor for spasmodic colic and ileal impaction in the horse. Equine Vet J 30 (3), 194-199 PubMed.
  • Hillyer M H & Mair T S (1997) Recurrent colic in the mature horse - a retrospective review of 58 cases. Equine Vet J 29 (6), 421-424 PubMed.
  • Kaneene J B et al (1997) Risk factors for colic in the Michigan (USA) equine population. Prevent Vet Med 30, 23-36 PubMed.
  • Tinker M K et al (1997) Prospective study of equine colic incidence and mortality. Equine Vet J 29 (6), 448-453 PubMed.
  • Cohen N D & Peloso J G (1996) Risk factors for history of previous colic and for chronic, intermittent colic in a population of horses. JAVMA 208, 697-703 PubMed.
  • Proudman C J (1991) A two year, prospective study of equine colic in general practice. Equine Vet J 24 (2), 90-93 PubMed.


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