How can steaming help to prevent colic? Part 2
In our last colic article (Part 1), we discussed some causes and management solutions for impaction colic. When some part of their dietary routine is altered, it is important to consider how those changes can potentially make the horse prone to colic. In this article, we will discuss post-operative care.
Stephanie Davis, DVM
Veterinarian and contributing writer, Mar 2, 2020
The proper care of the GI tract should help prevent the incident of an impaction.
In our last colic article (Part 1), we discussed some causes and management solutions for impaction colic. The details of proper hydration and forage intake were discussed so that your horse maintains a healthy gastrointestinal tract. The proper care of the GI tract should help prevent the incident of an impaction. However, there are certain instances where it becomes more difficult to provide a consistent and appropriate diet. Certain circumstances such as an injury (discussed in the previous article) will require a horse to be on stall rest and prevent them from getting enough fresh grass. When some part of their dietary routine is altered, it is important to consider how those changes can potentially make the horse prone to colic. In this article, we will discuss post-operative care.
Whether a horse has orthopedic or abdominal surgery, it is very important to carefully manage their diet post-operatively. A common complication of surgery is ileus. Simply, ileus is the absence of movement of the GI contents. Even with extensive research, the exact cause of post-operative ileus is not entirely known. The reason for this is that the seemingly simple movement of ingesta down the GI tract is extremely complicated. A perfect dance between the central, autonomic, and enteric nervous systems all must occur to create the appropriate smooth muscle contractions to move the ingesta through the intestines.
A post-operative horse has many factors challenging their GI motility.
Since the physiology of GI motility is so complex (and not completely understood), the best way to combat ileus is to try prevent it. The way to prevent is to promote healthy GI motility the best we can. It is well known that horses are naturally meant to graze up to 18 hours a day and travel some distance while doing that. The slow and steady intake of grass as well as the exercise done while searching for good grass will stimulate the movement of a health GI tract. So, after a horse has had surgery of any kind, they have to stay in a stall and are most often being given a number of medications (which can also affect the GI motility). This is drastically different from their natural state. Additionally, most if not all horses are stressed while in the hospital. The stress and pain associated with their condition will significantly decrease their mood and appetite. So, a post-operative horse has many factors challenging their GI motility.
When they are reluctant to eat, it is important to offer the most appetizing hay or fresh grass that you can to stimulate GI motility."
Considering that a horse in hospital is stressed, painful, and often inappetent, it makes logical sense to find a non-invasive way to reduce some of those factors in an attempt to prevent a post-operative ileus. When a horse is stall bound, it is important to create as much of a “grazing” environment as possible. Ideally, steamed hay would be put in a slow feeder. This is the best way to recreate a natural grazing pattern as well as hydrating the forage to mimic the grass they are not getting. In addition, a horse that is not eating well may be more interested in warm, sweet smelling steamed hay with the added bonus of reduced exposure to respirable dust, mold and bacteria rather than dry hay. Several studies have shown that horses prefer steamed hay over dry or soaked hay. When they are reluctant to eat, it is important to offer the most appetizing hay or fresh grass that you can to stimulate GI motility.
Did you miss Part 1 of Dr Davis’ article about colic? Click here for the link.
How can Haygain help your horse?
Haygain is a science-driven company committed to improving equine health through research and innovation in respiratory and digestive health issues. Developed and tested in cooperation with the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, England, the patented Haygain hay steamer is the only scientifically proven method for purifying hay.
Haygain hay steamers eliminate virtually all respirable dust particles and kill mold, bacteria, fungal spores and mites, while retaining the nutritional value of hay as the steaming process also improves palatability. In addition, our hay steamers help to aid in the management of laminitic, colic-prone and post-operative horses and helps manage and prevent respiratory conditions such as IAD and Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO/COPD).
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