Avoiding Colic in Horses in Dry Weather
As I was feeding my horses last night I heard Jamie, one of my chickens, squawking outside the chicken house. At first I thought that maybe one of the other chickens was in her favorite roosting spot, but she continued to squawk even after she had gone to her roost. All the other chickens seemed concerned and I realized that I had a chicken in distress. I took Jamie out and examined her but she seemed fat and alert. I have very limited knowledge of chickens but I did remember they could get egg-bound. I palpated her and did not feel any egg, but she did seem constipated.
The homeopathic remedy nux vomica seemed the obvious choice but I decided to consult my poultry-doctoring book first. After looking in the book, I discovered that chickens can indeed get constipated, especially in dry weather when they don't have anything green to eat. They can also have problems in cold weather. We have been in a severe drought for months and the night before temperature dropped to freezing. The next day the temperature reached the high seventies. This severe weather fluctuation created the perfect conditions for colic in horses, and it seems in chickens as well. So Jamie spent the night in my bathtub. After several doses of nux vomica her squawking got quieter and she eventually went to sleep. In the morning she seemed fine, having passed one very hard ball of poop during the night.
This episode got me thinking about how I automatically make small adjustments in my horse feeding program to fit the weather. These little changes can go a long way in avoiding colic in horses. My horse feeding program for dry weather includes:
- adding more alfalfa to provide some green food
- increasing the APA blue-green algae product to offer horses extra vitamin B12 when there is no grass
- adding electrolytes to the feed to encourage drinking
- adding probiotics and prebiotics to help encourage good gut motility
- giving bran mashes or wet the feed, especially on cold dry days to get extra water into the horses
My natural colic treatment for suspected impactions, which occur more easily in dry weather, includes:
- giving the homeopathic remedy nux vomica in 6c potency every 15 minutes for 4 doses
- feeding a prebiotic such as ProBi or KLPP
- feeding a probiotic such as Fastrack paste
- offering no hay but allowing small amounts of green grass or bran mash until the horse is passing manure
- hand-walking the horse for five minutes every hour until manure passes
- consulting a veterinarian if natural methods are not giving the horse some relief within an hour
Just so you know, I put out alfalfa hay, turnip greens, celery, and orange slices for my chickens this morning. They ignored all of it. Go figure. I guess you can lead a chicken to greens but you can't make her eat!
About the Author
Madalyn Ward, DVM, owns Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic in Austin, Texas. She is certified in Veterinary Homeopathy and Equine Osteopathy.
Memberships include American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Texas Veterinary Medical Association and the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.
She has authored several books and publishes at her blog.