Text by Diogo Parreira, Veterinary Advisor Piavita AG
WHAT IS A COLIC?
A horse colic can be described as “abdominal pain,” and it is still the #1 reason for calling the vet.
Some good news is: 90% of them have medical treatment. You’re not alone: On average, 1 out of 4 horses have an episode of colic per year. Colic is a relatively common equine disorder of the digestive system.
The monitoring of a colic case is done by several factors that tell us if the patient is improving or declining in condition:
Appetite and water consumption. Feces and urine: production & consistency. Is the patient showing signs of pain? → Does the patient paw on the floor? → Does the patient look too much to the flank or abdomen? → Does the patient shake his head frequently? → Does the patient kick or bite at the abdomen? → Is there abdominal distention present? → Does the patient show overall signs of discomfort? → Does the patient attempt to roll continuously? → Is the patient showing signs of excess sweating? → Is the patient showing signs of weakness or depression? Does the patient have “gurgly” or normal gut sounds by audible detection?
COLIC DIAGNOSIS AND TESTS
There is a wide spectrum of severity when speaking about equine colic. Auscultation of the bowel movements (A VERY IMPORTANT ONE), for instance, when there is no movement in at least one quadrant of the digestive tract, is a red flag. Other cases of “mild colic” might be treatable with medication. Two common classifications of equine colic are “spasmodic / gas” colic or “impaction” colic. The monitoring questions above will help an equine veterinarian diagnose which type of colic the patient is suffering from.
Common vital signs that a veterinarian will use to diagnose equine colic are: Heart Rate (HR), Respiration Rate (RR), Temperature, oral mucosal tissue membrane pallor and/or color, capillary refill time, blood pressure/pulse, Temp of the extremities (ears and hoof, as colics can cause laminitis).
Other complementary diagnostic procedures such as: hematocrit analysis, total proteins, test of glucose or lactate, blood count, renal function or hepatic function, paracentesis (collecting of abdominal liquid), diagnostic ultrasound, and/or transrectal palpation.
With the Piavet System, how can we help veterinarians better diagnose colics while monitoring them:
#1 Real-time Monitoring If the System has been used on the patient before we have records of vital signs and great access to a “healthy” baseline comparison. The Piavet System maintains active recording, thus keeping track and assisting in diagnosis.
#2 Heart Rate If the HR is above 60, it is usually an indication that there is a need for nasogastric intubation (horses lack the ability to regurgitate, thus leading to a possible obstruction on GI tract causing a potential risk of intestinal rupture and/or septicemia (bacterial infection/toxic shock) then death or necessary euthanasia within hours); it can also indicate hypovolemia (severe blood loss due to internal or external hemorrhaging).
#3 Raise in the HR or Respiratory Rate If there is a raise in the HR or respiratory rate and they stay elevated in the patient, it can also be used as a warning sign. Cecal impactions, for instance, tend to have a display of mild display of clinical signs that can be observed for days.
#4 Respiratory Rate Alterations on the respiratory rate can be a telling sign of : Alkalosis – If respiration rate has decreased from normal baseline. Acidosis – If respiration rate has increased from normal baseline.
#5 Temperature Usually the body temperature will increase after transrectal palpation. Collecting the temperature before, during, and after palpation with the Piavet System has great benefits to proper diagnosis and establishing level of disease. If the patient’s temperature has changed during the diagnostic process:
If increased – Possible inflammatory processes linked to infection such as abscess, colitis and/or peritonitis. If decreased – Dehydration or severe toxemia, for example.
INTERNS AND MANAGEMENT OF CRITICAL CASES:
The Piavet System allows the opportunity to have a consistent view of numerous key vital signs for the patient(s). As explained above, the assessment of condition of the hospitalized patient is based on several factors and Piavet will not eliminate the need for the vet/assistants check-ups, but it can allow the veterinary patient care team to continually monitor the patient(s) without sacrificing the well-being of the patient and provides a watchful eye.
→ The Piavet System instills trust in all members of the veterinary patient care team from veterinarians to technicians. Allows the veterinary patient care team to confirm accuracy in readings and process of collecting manual vital signs.
→ The Piavet System allows veterinary patient care team to continuously remotely monitor the patient(s) during overnight observation or recovery while creating a career-life balance.
→ The Piavet System provides a fantastic, consistent overview of the evolution of the condition and onset of disease. Being able to compare disease prevalence and condition to the patient’s baseline are key to keeping horses healthy.
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