Insidious Sand Colic



Horses living in gritty desert climates, such as Nevada, are at high risk of developing sand colic. Owners can reduce that risk with some simple management solutions.

Insidious Sand ColicHorses that eat on sandy soil are more likely to develop colic.

In the arid state of Nevada, surrounded by dry mountain ranges, the wind whips through and kicks up the sandy ground. It’s in this type of climate that sand colic, an accumulation of sand in a horse’s stomach, runs rampant. Leslie Schur, DVM, of Desert Pines Equine Medical and Surgical Center in Las Vegas is all too aware of the painful condition this time of year. Major changes in temperature, sandy soil and decreased water intake, common in winter months, can lead to a major blockage in the bowel. But with some practical changes to management, owners can keep their horses colic-free.

Schur recalls one of her most worrisome cases that happened to a roping horse many years ago. Her initial evaluation suggested the horse was su ering from a serious case of sand colic.

“[The impaction] felt like a stone, but I knew because of [what I felt during palpation], it wasn’t a stone. It was probably the size of a volleyball,” Schur recalls.

Schur tried to treat the gelding in the  eld by administering a sedative, then passing a nasogastric tube and  ushing him with mineral oil, water and electrolytes.  e gelding was also given the nonsteroidal anti-in ammatory drug Banamine to ease some of the pain.  is combination treatment can sometimes be enough to loosen an impaction and allow the veterinarian to remove the sand via rectal palpation.

“On [some] rectal exams, we pull out straight sand. It’s awful. The clients are mortified,” says Schur.

Unfortunately, the roping horse could not be treated in the  eld and was taken to the clinic for further monitoring. Due to high medical costs, the horse was not a candidate for surgery, a reality many horse owners face. Fortunately, the owner was able to keep him hospitalized until more information was gathered.

To make sure he stayed hydrated, the gelding was put on intravenous fluids and had a nasogastric tube passed several times a day for what Schur refers to as “oral hydration.” But, after eight days of fluids, small, low-bulk meals and Banamine, the gelding showed little improvement.

On the eighth day of treatment, the client, who was known for taking good care of her horses, told Schur that she was out of funds and couldn’t keep the horse hospitalized anymore.

Tags: Horse HealthRide WestColic