I recently had a clinical rotation in large animal surgery. The rotation is designed so that we do a hands-on lab session in the middle of the day on each weekday, and we are then on call from 5:00 PM – 8:00 AM of every weeknight and on call all weekend. The lab sessions covered practical emergency procedure skills that every large animal vet should know how to perform. These include nasogastric tubing, abdominocentesis, IV catheterization of the external jugular vein and the lateral thoracic vein, and emergency rescue techniques to get a large animal out of a confined space or back on its feet if it’s down and cannot right itself. All of these labs were very valuable to us since we got to practice skills on our teaching animals that live at university facilities as well as practice the skills on hospital patients when the situation arose.
During our on-call hours, we got to see a wide variety of cases. Luckily, the week was not too crazy, and we got a good amount of sleep while seeing a lot of cases. Of course, we had quite a few colic cases throughout the 2 weeks. A couple of them ended up needing surgery, while a couple of them were medically managed. We had one horse come into the clinic with a broken neck. It got its head stuck in between fence posts and then attempted to extract itself, which was partially successful. The two luxated vertebrae were only mildly displaced, and we decided that it would be riskier to attempt to correct the luxation than it would be to manage the horse with pain medication and anti-inflammatories. Since the horse had no nervous system deficits and actually had a good range of motion in the neck, we were not worried about the horse having lasting deficits from the injury.
We most recently got called in in the middle of the night for another colicking horse. This one was a unique case of small intestinal volvulus nodosus in a yearling. Basically, that means that a focused portion of the small intestine wraps around itself, cutting off blood flow and restricting the flow of ingesta through the intestines. Since the owners knew something was wrong in a quick amount of time, we were able to take the horse to surgery and correct the problem without having to surgically resect any intestine. Hopefully, the horse will heal without complication and go on to live a normal life after recovery. It just goes to show you that colic can happen in any age of the horse.