A New and Better Way to Treat Spasmodic or Gas Colic in Horses

by RickFox in Uncategorized0 Comments

The first time I saw it I had to think, did I just see what I thought I saw? Within 30 seconds of a chiropractic adjustment our older Thoroughbred who’d exhibited signs of colic was standing without stress and without pain. His countenance had immediately changed. No sedative, no Banamine, no stomach tube, no mineral oil, just the initial diagnosis and then the adjustment. 

Over the past 50 years we’ve had our share of horses with colic and the method of  treatment has pretty much remained the same, and so has my thought process.  My  list of questions goes like this: How bad is it? What type of colic is it? Will the veterinarian get here in time? Will the horse recover? How much will this cost?

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A few winters ago our Welsh pony Blue Blazes had colic and I called Dr. Wagner. After examining BB, Dr. Wagner performed the same adjustment to BB that he had to the previous thoroughbred, and produced the same result. I’m not saying this procedure will be successful on every horse, every colic, every time, but for me two out of two ain’t bad.This January BB developed colic again and when I called Dr. Wagner he was out of town at the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association Annual Convention. So another vet was called and BB is fine.

This vet treated BB the traditional way. Exam, sedative, Banamine, stomach tube, mineral oil and continued walking. Nothing wrong with any of this, and as I said BB is fine. We checked on him several more times that night, gave another dose of Banamine in the morning, increased his water, and withheld food. In other words, we did all the things we had been doing for 50 years. 

But these experiences got me thinking. Twice with Dr. Wagner and within a short time span the horse was back to normal. I had to know more, so I asked the good doctor, who else knows about this technique? How does it work? What led you to its discovery? What types of colic does it work for? Would you please explain to me how all this works.

Discussion of New Type of Colic Treatment

In this article I want to introduce Dr. Keith L. Wagner DVM and his method for treating certain types of colic. Dr. Wagner is the veterinarian who treated Bert, our-  Thoroughbred who had a history of colic, and Blue Blazes our Welsh pony.

The main focus of Dr. Wagner’s practice is to improve the health of his equine patients by using Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Applied Kinesiology, and Traditional Western Veterinary Medicine. He specializes in preventing lameness and other health issues by using complimentary modalities along with traditional western veterinary medicine.

Dr. Wagner’s eureka moment came when treating a horse in 2013. After the initial exam he asked the horse owner if she would mind if he gave the horse a quick chiropractic adjustment before he went to his truck to retrieve what he needed to treat the colic. The horse within 30 seconds responded positively to the adjustment. Dr. Wagner did give Banamine and passed a stomach tubed to make sure there was no fluid build up in stomach, but the chiropractic adjustment had succeeded. 

Dr. Wagner’s Approach
While talking to the horse owner Dr. Wagner determines the horse’s pain level. He gives a physical exam which includes heart rate and sounds, respiration rate and sounds, and intestinal rate and sounds, Mucous Membrane or gum color, hydration status, checks for the two primary Central Pattern Generator dysfunctions (Ileocecal valve dysfunction and Physiological Diaphragmatic Hernia) while making a preliminary assessment of type of colic. If the horse is not in undue stress he then immediately applies a chiropractic treatment before giving Banamine. If adjustment relieves colic then Banamine and a stomach tube to administer mineral oil are not necessary. Traditional veterinary medicine typically starts with Banamine and possibly sedation if pain is severe enough and will possible add Buscopan before palpation and passing a stomach tube checking for reflux and administering lubricant.

The pain level determines the approach used:

  1. Mild pain — check ileocecal valve Dysfunction and Physiological Diaphragmatic Hernia. Majority of time the horse needs an adjustment, afterwards you usually get the beginning of resolution of colic signs within 30 to 60 seconds, then monitor vitals to see if they are back to normal, if not immediate response should be in 5 to 10 minutes. 
  2. Mild to moderate pain — apply adjustment (one minute to do) and if not getting response then administer Banamine. Should get softening of eye and decreased pain signs monitoring heart rate and gut motility within 2 – 5 minutes.  
  3. Moderate pain — Intestinal tract motility or sounds are not as strong as Vet would like after previous listed treatments, Buscopan is given which requires  a minimum of 15 minutes just to see if it works, but may take up to 30 minutes.  A sedative may need to be administered to control pain response. 
  4. Severe pain — Adjustments alone with Banamine & Buscopan will not work and more aggressive therapy is needed.

Ileocecal Valve Dysfunction

  1. The Ileocecal valve is a valve in the intestinal tract between the ileum which is the end of the small intestine and the cecum which is the beginning of the hindgut or fermentation section of the horse’s intestinal tract
  2. Ileocecal valve is the pacemaker for the intestinal tract.  It sets the flow of the ingesta through the intestinal tract by influencing the muscle contraction of the intestines.
  3. If the ileocecal valve is not working properly the muscle contractions does not move the ingesta at a proper rate.
  4. When there is stasis or decrease flow of the ingesta in the intestinal tract, gases can be produced.  The distention or expansion of the intestinal wall produces pain commonly known as colic.  Also, with the lack of ingesta flow, toxins produced by the overgrowth of bacteria in the intestinal tract cause other problems and compounding factors associated with colic in horses.
  5. Ileocecal valve dysfunction can be improved or corrected by correcting the nerve impulse to the valve.  The Vagus nerve is the primary nerve that innervates the ileocecal valve.
  6. The Vagus nerve originates in the poll area of the spinal cord.  
  7. When the vertebra does not move properly, the vertebral immobility inhibits the nerve function.
  8. A proper chiropractic adjustment of the second cervical vertebra improves the Vagus nerve function. 

Physiological Diaphragmatic Hernia

  1. A lesser concern but can cause signs of colic
  2. The diaphragm is a muscle. With this dysfunction, the diaphragm is weak due to improper nerve impulse. Due to the weakness the diaphragm, it does not close tightly around the esophagus where the esophagus goes through the diaphragm consequently the diaphragm gaps open.
  3. Since the thorax is a negative atmospheric pressure and the abdomen is a neutral pressure, the pressure gradient pulls an abdominal structure into or through the gap in the diaphragm.  This creates pressure discomfort and pain.
  4. Chiropractic adjustments correct the deficient nerve impulse to the diaphragm thereby strengthening the muscle, closing the gap and pushing the abdominal structures back into the abdomen. 

Types of Colic Treated Dr. Wagner’s ApproachStudies show that 4-10% of horses are diagnosed with colic annually. However, some types of colic are more serious than others. Spasmodic or Gas Colic represent around 75% of all colic cases.

Gas Colic — Gas colic occurs when there is excessive build up of gas within the intestines of the horse. These horses can often have a lot of flatulence.

Spasmodic Colic — Spasmodic colic is the result of intestinal cramps or spasms. This type of colic can also have intestinal hyper motility.

Impaction Colic — Impaction colic accounts for 10% of all colics attended by veterinarians. These occur where partially digested feed, typically roughage, builds up in the large intestine of the horse and stops moving, resulting in a blockage or impaction. With impaction colic, the horse is not passing dung. Initial cause of an Impaction colic is probably related to improper intestinal motility so if the decrease motility is due to a reduced nerve function this can be influenced by a chiropractic manipulation.  But once the impaction is present usually additional treatment procedures are needed beside just a chiropractic manipulation.

Thanks for reading.

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