Colic! The dreaded "c" word! Last night a friend called and asked me to come over while she waited for the vet to arrive. One of her miniature horses was colicking. Horses exhibit signs of colic differently than donkeys, as they tend to be more dramatic creatures than the donks. Her little guy had been rolling and thrashing, flicking his tail and generally seemed very uncomfortable. She had walked him for an hour and then asked me to stand with him to make sure he didn't go down while she fed her dogs and tended to other animals.
The little horse peed and we could hear gut sounds on the right side (all good news!) and when the vet arrived she listened through her stethoscope, checked his gums, took his temperature and checked his heart rate. She said she could hear swooshing sounds on his left side which indicated the presence of sand in the cecum or colon.
She gave him 1/2 cc of Rompum to sedate him and then inserted a nasal- gastric tube - this was done to rehydrate him. The sand will have to be removed slowly with the help of psyllium, fed every other day, with a bran mash fed on the days in between. The pysillium acts as a binder and the bran as a laxative - both are needed.
My friend was advised to check his manure by putting it in a zip-lock bag, adding water, mixing and then seeing if she could detect sand in the stool by feeling it at the bottom of the bag.
Sand can really cause problems in the bowel if ingested. But it's nearly impossible to prevent grazing animals from ingesting it! In summer when there is significant drought here, the donkeys paw and snuffle around in the dirt. Even feeding them in hay bags causes them to search for the bits that have fallen on the ground. There are a few ways to minimize sand ingestion though. Some people put a rubber mat on the ground where they eat. If I feed loose hay, I usually put it in a trough (and hope they don't toss it around too much!)
We were lucky that the vet could come last night. It was pouring rain and she had to travel by ferry to get here. If it had been an hour later, the last ferry would have left for the night and we'd be stuck - VERY scary to think of considering that an unskilled person could never administer a nasal-gastric tube to a horse or donkey.
I rushed home to make sure my gang was okay - the weather has been just dismal - torrential rain and fog. The donkeys have been stuck in the barn without enough exercise ... all factors that can contribute to the dreaded "c" word!