There are two kinds of colic, distinguished as spasmodic colic and flatulent colic, both of which are characterized by symptoms of abdominal pain Spasmodic colic results from morbid contraction or spasm of the muscular structure of the bowel, while flatulent colic arises out of the opposite condition, by an over-distension - or outward stretching - of the gut with gases evolved from the fermenting or decomposing food. Although the symptoms are pretty familiar to horsemen, very vague notions are usually held as to the seat of pain. Stablemen are wont to declare the horse's water is wrong, and they therefore attach undue importance to the act of urination, and in this mistaken view administer agents altogether unsuited to the requirements of the case.


The disease has for its origin a variety of causes. Indigestion is accountable for more cases than any other cause, and, as we have already seen, assumes a variety of forms.

Drinking copiously of cold water on an empty stomach when exhausted by prolonged exertion is another cause. Some springs of water are specially prone to produce gripes, and are avoided by horse-owners for that reason. The presence of parasites when in large numbers, and the existence of calculi (stones) and other concretions, are fruitful causes of the malady. It also results from the lodgment of foreign bodies in the bowels, and chronic disease of the latter is sometimes its cause.


These are usually very sudden in their onset. All at once the horse is seized with pain, which he evinces by pawing and scraping the ground with his front feet, stamping and striking the belly with the hind ones, lays back his ears and looks round to his flank. From time to time he shows a desire to lie down, crouching as if to do so, and again raising himself to the upright position. He may repeat these movements several times, and then go down almost recklessly, perhaps to rise immediately or roll over from side to side in a violent manner. True or spasmodic colic is intermittent, and in the midst of his sufferings the patient may get up, shake himself, and begin to feed as if nothing ailed him. This, however, only marks a brief respite as a rule, for the symptoms will again return, and often with increased violence, when the animal will wander round the box and throw himself violently down in the fits of pain. Examination of the faeces generally prove them to be small in amount, hard, and not unfrequently coated with glairy mucus. It may also be that different portions will vary in consistence, traceable to a sudden change from soft to hard food or the reverse.

Spasmodic Colic (1).

Fig. 100. - Spasmodic Colic (1).

The quickened pulse and breathing observed during the paroxysms of suffering pass away when the pain has subsided, and in the intervals show little or no disturbance.

In favourable cases the intermissions of pain are prolonged in duration and the symptoms less acute. If, however, the severity of the attack increases and the intervals of ease become shorter, it portends danger.


The timely administration of a diffusible stimulant is often sufficient to relieve a passing spasm, but it is more to the point in these cases to administer a ball of aloes without loss of time. This will have the effect of keeping down the tendency to inflammation and remove offending matter from the bowels. Opium in various forms, as ammoniated tincture of laudanum alone, or in combination with ether or aromatic spirit of ammonia, are most useful in subduing pain and controlling spasm. The repeated administration of opium has the effect of retarding the action of the bowels, however, and many horses have been lost from the want of an aperient to counteract it. This the aloes ball does from the first, enabling us to give bolder doses and to continue them over a longer time. Where drenching is undesirable, morphia or belladonna may be injected beneath the skin by means of a suitable syringe. Used in this manner, morphia is said to have all the good effects of opium without its objections.

Spasmodic Colic (2).

Fig. 101. - Spasmodic Colic (2).


PLATE XXV. CLYDESDALE STALLION: LORD STEWART By Castlereagh 10324; dam, Lady Susan 11442 by Callender 4901. The Property of Seaham Harbour Stud Company.

Photo. by Reid, Wishaw.

Clydesdale Stallion, Holyrood.

Clydesdale Stallion, Holyrood. Owner, Marquis of Londonderry.

In an emergency, where, as sometimes happens, drugs are not to be obtained, gin or whisky with a little ginger form a useful draught with warm or cold water. Like the other diffusible stimulants referred to, they serve to distribute the nerve force, which for the time is acting prejudicially on a portion of the bowel, producing spasmodic contraction. An early opportunity should be taken in these cases to empty the posterior bowel of its faecal contents by passing the hand up the rectum. This should be followed by the introduction of clysters, composed of water at about the temperature of the body in which a little soap has been dissolved. A considerable amount of relief may be afforded by repeating the injections at intervals of an hour or two, in course of which the action of the bowels may be materially expedited if a little sulphate of magnesia or linseed-oil be added to the soap solution. Stimulation of the abdomen from the outside by means of friction, with wisps of straw or liniments, or rugs dipped in hot water, should not be overlooked. Violent rolling- is to be guarded against as much as possible, and some advantage may be derived from short spells of walking exercise, which will assist in promoting the action of the bowels.

Spasmodic Colic (3). (Horse rolling in pain).

Fig. 102. - Spasmodic Colic (3). (Horse rolling in pain).