Equine Sand Colic: A Dirty Situation

By Garrett Metcalf, DVM

Many people find the sounds of waves moving across sandy beaches on a nice comfortable vacation enjoyable, but hearing them with a stethoscope on a horse’s abdomen is no vacation and certainly not comfortable for the horse. Sand colic is one of many forms of colic owners should be aware of because it can be very preventable and something every horse owner can address easily at the farm.

Sand colic is an accumulation of sand, dirt or gravel the horse ingests during a short or long period of time. The sand accumulates typically in the large colon of the horse where it can lead to colonic irritation (colitis), abnormal colon motility and obstruction similar to an impaction. All age groups of horses are susceptible to sand colic, but younger horses are more likely to preferentially ingest sand or dirt.

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