This, one of the most common and fatal diseases, depends on spasm, or cramp of the muscular coat of a portion of the bowel. It arises from a variety of causes: dust balls and stony concretions, masses of undigested food, and hardened excrement obstructing the bowel; from overeating, as when a horse gets loose at night and walks into the corn-bin or naturally has a greedy appetite, and gorges himself or, during the day, has the nose-bag put on whenever he stops, and when brought home at night is again fed freely or allowed to eat as much hay as he likes; from irregular feeding, as when he is kept short at one part of the day and liberally supplied at another; from exhaustion following hard work and coupled with improper feeding; from exposure to cold, or drinking cold water when the body is hot, or from the presence of worms. In the great majority of cases, the cause is some impropriety in feeding, and therefore, if common-sense attention were paid to this point, there would be many fewer cases of colic. When a horse is frequently attacked with colic, there is a strong presumption that he has dust or stone balls in the bowels, especially if the general health and condition break down.
Let me sketch the picture of a griped horse. Suddenly, he becomes restless, walks about, crouches, paws the ground,
kicks his belly with the hind feet, looks often round to his side. Presently he lies down and rolls about with more or less violence, sometimes resting on his belly and looking round anxiously at his flank, sometimes stretched out full length, sometimes turned on his back, in a state of comparative calm. The pain now remits – he gets up, shakes himself and begins to eat, or nibble. Before long, another attack, more severe than the first, seizes him, and the old symptoms are repeated with greater violence than before.
He throws himself about wildly, utterly indifferent to the injuries he self-inflicts; his eyes stare and look anxious; he breathes fast; his skin is more or less covered with sweat; he tries to stool, but passes little or nothing; he perhaps voids a few small hard lumps of dung. After several such displays, the attacks become milder and fewer, and finally cease; or they increase in number, and then he exhibits indications of exhaustion and walks unsteadily, or reels round the box. He finds no temporary relief save when lying against the wall on his back. His muscles twitch, his breathing is quick and groaning and his pulse small and hurried. He breaks out in patches of cold sweat, the retracted lips expose the clenched teeth, and ere long, death closes the painful scene.
Colic may continue from half an hour to a day, and may lead to death from rupture of the bowel, or of the midriff, or from twisting of the bowel.
There is another form of this disease, called by some Flatulent Colic, or Acute Indigestion, which arises from eating too fast, overloading the stomach, drinking too much water, working on a full stomach, eating turnips, carrots, potatoes or rank grass. The food either remains undigested, or it ferments and gives off gas, which distends the stomach and bowels. The symptoms are similar to those first depicted, with the addition that the belly is more or less bloated and drummy when struck – that rumbling noises are heard within and wind discharged from the bowels – and that the horse frequently retches, and may succeed in vomiting. This is the more dangerous of the two forms, and very frequently terminates in rupture of the stomach.
Aconite is indicated by the following symptoms: When the attack has been induced by a chill, or by drinking cold water when the body was hot; when the animal’s behaviour as above described, shows that he is in great suffering; when he frequently tries to pass urine and dung; when the belly is tender, swollen, and wind rumbles in it.
Ammonium causticum is, according to my experience, the only single medicine which can speedily cure the largest proportion of colic cases; it is more especially suitable for “windy colic.”
Nux vomica is the best remedy when the attack arises from eating indigestible food, or from over-eating, or from accumulation of excrement; when hard, dry lumps are discharged; when the horse makes straining efforts to urinate and dung, without any result, or with but little; when the pain is not of the most violent character, and the horse does not knock himself about savagely, but lies a good deal on his side, restless and uneasy, and every now and then looks round to his side.
Colocynthis is indicated in cases attended with most severe pain, causing the animal to roll about violently; also when the attack appears to result from eating green food, and the belly is much distended with gas; and when wind and watery motions are discharged by the bowel.
Dosing: Repeat each dose every fifteen or thirty minutes, according to the violence of the symptoms.
There are several other medicines which are of use in exceptional cases, but the above are sufficient to cure the great majority, and that more speedily than the ordinary plan of giving turpentine, purges, etc. Injections of warm water should be thrown up occasionally. The operation of “back-raking” relieves the rectum, but injections are safer, and just as effectual. I have known stable-men and grooms thrust their hand through the bowel, and, of course, thus destroy the horse. The animal should be turned into a loose box, with plenty of straw to roll on. Compelling a gripped horse to walk and trot is downright cruelty, and a most dangerous practice. After the attack is over, give soft food, and exercise gently for two or three days.
Excerpted from : Horses Ill and Well: Homeopathic Treatment of Diseases and Injuries and Hints on Feeding, Grooming, Conditioning, Nursing, Horse-buying.
(1863) by James Moore, M.E.C.V.S., – Member of Royal Agricultural Society of England.>.