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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

versão On-line ISSN 2224-9435
versão impressa ISSN 1019-9128

J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. vol.80 no.3 Pretoria  2009




Causes of gastrointestinal colic at an equine referral hospital in South Africa (1998-2007)



A VoigtI; M N SaulezI; C M DonnellanI; B GummowII

ISection of Equine Medicine, Department of Companion Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa
IISchool of Veterinary and Biomedical Science, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Science, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia




The most common causes of gastrointestinal colic at an equine referral hospital in South Africa were determined following retrieval of the medical records of horses admitted during a 10-year study period. The study included 935 horses of which 28 % were admitted after hours. Most horses were Thoroughbreds (54 %), male (57 %), with a mean age of 8.2 years and originated from the Gauteng Province (81 %). Heart rate (98 %), mucous membrane colour (95 %) and auscultation of the abdomen (91 %) were the clinical data commonly obtained at admission. Packed cell volume, total serum protein and white cell count were recorded in 78 %, 75 % and 44 % of horses respectively. Transrectal palpation (93 %), nasogastric intubation (84 %), intravenous catheterisation (74 %) and abdominocentesis (53 %) were the most frequently performed procedures. Medical intervention was performed in 558 horses (60 %). The common causes of medical colic were impactions (39 %), tympany (7 %) and displacement of the large colon (6 %). An exploratory laparotomy was performed in 331 horses (36 %). The common causes of surgical colic were displacement (29 %), impaction (22 %) and small intestinal strangulating lesions (18 %). Death occurred in 3 % of horses, while euthanasia before medical intervention was performed in 4 %. Overall, medical intervention was successful in 93 % of horses and 67 % in horses managed surgically. In conclusion, 55 % of all the equine admissions responded to medical intervention and the recovery rate for horses receiving both medical and surgical intervention was comparable to that reported in other studies.

Keywords: abdominal pain, horse, medical and surgical intervention, survival



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Received: March 2009
Accepted: August 2009



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