Vet school works to head off colic with new online resource

Flank watching is a classic sign of colic.
Flank watching is a classic sign of colic.

The latest research and resources on common emergency conditions in horses are now available to vets and horse owners, thanks to a new website set up by equine researchers at a British university.

The VetReact website is the brainchild of researchers within the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science.

They hope the new site will become the “go-to” resource for evidence-based advice and information on clinical best practice in horse medicine.

VetReact adds to the current national campaign in Britain being run by the Nottingham Veterinary School and British Horse Society – REACT Now to Beat Colic – which is helping horse owners spot early signs of colic and seek early diagnosis and treatment.

“Colic in horses continues to be one of the most dangerous conditions in the animal,” said Dr John Burford at the official launch of the website.

“It accounts for a third of veterinary call-outs. At least one in ten of these cases may become critical and up 80% of these end in the death of the horse.”

Colic surgery for a small intestinal strangulation by a lipoma (fatty mass). The surgeon is holding the lipoma.
Colic surgery for a small intestinal strangulation by a lipoma (fatty mass). The surgeon is holding the lipoma. © Dr John Burford

Burford said the website presented the results of the most recent research as resources for vets, with links to original information sources.

“We have focused on the primary assessment of horses showing signs of colic and how to spot critical cases at this early stage.”

The website was developed as a result of interviews and surveys of vets in practice on how they go about finding research-based evidence to help them in their work.

Dr Alex Knott, a partner at Oakham Veterinary Hospital said vets at the practice saw a large number of colic cases both through visits oo owners, and as referrals to the equine hospital for surgery.

“This initiative will help vets in practice by providing resources which are easily accessible for vets out on the road, and helping vets make the decisions to refer critical cases as rapidly as possible, giving them the best chance of survival.”

Dark red gums indicate a serious problem.
Dark red gums indicate a serious problem.

Resources available on the site include the most common clinical signs of colic, the essential components of history-taking and the physical examination, information on when different diagnostic tests should and shouldn’t be used, and how to differentiate critical cases on the first examination.

Recommendations for action have been generated through multi-disciplinary workshops and online surveys with vets and horse owners with experience of colic.

The website places a strong emphasis on safety considerations, and stresses that the information offers “recommendations” not “rules”, which should be considered and applied by veterinary practitioners in the context of each individual case.

The Nottingham project group includes Miss Isabella Wild, Dr Burford, Dr Adelle Bowden, Professor Mark Bowen, Professor Gary England and Professor Sarah Freeman.

The website was developed based on work done by research student Isabella Wild on how vets access evidence in practice, and has been supported by funding from the equine charity World Horse Welfare.

World Horse Welfare chief exectuive Dr Roly Owers said colic was a really significant equine health and welfare issue and vets played a fundamental role in bringing about a prompt resolution.

He said the charity was pleased to support the project to help bring practical advice to practicing vets.

The website will continue to grow and will include hard-copy resources to download and print, as well as videos and an app in the future.

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