Is cold weather a risk for colic?

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Although there are many known risk factors for colic – change in feed, limited water, stress – in many cases, the exact cause of a colic incident in a particular horse is unknown. There are no specific studies that prove a change in weather will cause colic even though there is lots of anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

The observed increase in colic associated with changes in weather could be explained by how the horse’s routine is affected. For example, a drop in temperature can chill water sources leading to a decrease in water intake, which can then predispose them to impaction colic. Inclement weather may also change the amount of movement in pastured horses as they huddle in shelter, decreasing the beneficial effects that exercise has on gastrointestinal motility. Weather changes can also affect the sugar and nutritional content of pasture, which also then lead to a possible colic episode. Colic is always a risk for every horse no matter what the weather and it is important to keep in mind that every horse that is showing signs of colic should be carefully monitored, as they may need veterinary assistance.