Colic Diagnosis - Clinical Signs

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Clinical signs

Picture of rolling horse (Courtesy of Lily M, WikiMedia Commons)
Picture of horse sweating up and pawing the ground(Courtesy of Potter K, SPANA)

It is important for the owner or trainer of horses to be able to recognise the clinical signs of colic. This will enable the veterinarian to be contacted as soon as possible to give the horse the best chance of survival.

Signs of Abdominal Pain in order of Increasing Severity

  • Repeated lying down and rising
  • Inappetence
  • Quivering of the upper lip
  • Flank watching
  • Frequent attempts to urinate
  • Kicking the abdomen with hind feet
  • Crouching as if trying to lie down
  • Sweating
  • Dropping to the floor and rolling violently

Other Clinical Signs

  • Pawing and/or scraping
  • Stretching
  • Pacing
  • Repeated flehmen response
  • Rolling
  • Groaning
  • Bruxism
  • Excess salivation
  • Decreased faecal output
  • Increased pulse rate and respiratory (see normal values here)
  • Congested mucous membranes


  • Meuller E, Moore J. N, (2008) Classification and Pathophysiology of Colic, Gastrointestinal Emergencies and Other Causes of Colic, in Equine Emergencies- Treatments and Procedures, 3rd Edition, Eds Orsini J. A, Divers T.J, Saunders Elsevier, pp 108