Researchers aim to establish new colic guidelines


vetResearchers in Britain aim to establish a set of guidelines to help distinguish between mild and life-threatening signs of colic in horses.

Colic is the number one killer of horses, but one difficulty faced by vets is differentiating between a mild case and those that threaten life.

Experts from The University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science are carrying out a survey looking at how equine colic cases first present to vets, how they are diagnosed, and the outcomes.

The aim of the evidence-based study is to establish guidelines they hope will transform the diagnosis of this potentially fatal condition.

“We don’t just want to hear about the difficult surgical cases,” explained Dr Sarah Freeman, an expert in equine surgery.

“No matter how mild the case is we want to hear from veterinary surgeons across the country.

“Most of the research so far has focused on surgical and hospital based cases. Very little work has been done on the first assessment of colic.

“The critical thing is to identify the danger signs in cases which need to be seen very quickly. By doing that we will be able to develop a standard set of guidelines of things to do and the specific warning signs to look out for in certain types of colic.”

Although most cases of equine colic can be treated and fewer than 10 per cent of cases are severe enough to require surgery, it is one of the conditions horse owners most dread.

The researchers hope to enrol veterinary surgeons from across the country to help gather information on 1000 cases. So far nearly 80 vets have registered, but more are needed. They are being asked to participate in the survey by completing online survey or paper forms about the cases they see.

The website also has links to other sources of information on colic and will have regular updates on the progress of the project and what is new in the literature.

The study is being carried out by Laila Issaoui, a doctoral student at the vet school.

“We are specifically looking at first presentation and evaluation of colic,” Issaoui said.

“Diagnosis relies on first opinion ‘out in the field diagnosis’ from vets who can be called out any time of day or night and in all weathers to attend horses with this potentially fatal condition.

“We want to develop some of the work that has already been carried out here at the Nottingham vet school on the early warning signs of colic to ensure horse owners and vets can recognise critical cases as early as possible.”

The study results will be shared with horse owners and vets to make sure critical cases are identified early to improve chances of survival.

Freeman and Issaouli are asking horse owners to help by encouraging their own vets to participate.


For vets and horse owners interested in knowing more about the survey please contact the project team via email:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *