|Our test subject, Teddy, didn't have colic (thank goodness), but like any hard working Queenslander, he thought he'd try a taste of XXXX anyway and loved it!|
Recently there's been a considerable amount of media coverage about a horse that had severe colic, which after many hours of pain, was cured by giving him a XXXX. Personally I have seen a mild case of colic, in the wilds of the Victorian Alps, cured by giving the horse a beer, however, the horse in the recent incident had far more than a mild case and yet apparently the beer still did the job.
We decided to ask consulting vet Dr Paul Hatten BVSc about this beer caper and if it had any substance!
Dr Paul advised that beer definitely seems to have a positive effect on spasmodic colic. In fact, if he's called out to a colic case, he will often advise the caller to give the horse a beer until he gets there, but adds, "I would never advise someone to give there horse a beer and leave it at that! There are so many different types and causes of colic and it's really only spasmodic colic that beer seems to help. It appears to have an anaesthetising affect on the bowel and relaxes muscle spasms, which cause the horse pain. Beer has absolutely no effect on other types of colic - after all, colic is just another name for a pain in the belly - such as blockages, enteroliths, bowel intussusception or telescoping of the bowel. Many things can cause colic, ulcers, worms, baling twine in the gut and beer will do nothing to ease the pain or cure the cause in these cases."
So it seems that while beer may help with spasmodic colic it is paramount that you still call the vet out if you are worried that your horse is suffering from colic - it is important that the cause be assessed by a professional rather than leaving your horse suffer for hours. Dr Paul reiterates that giving beer and not calling the vet is a gamble.
Dr Paul says that it seems to be the alcohol in the beer that relaxes the muscle spasms but when asked if he thinks maybe a scotch and dry or a tipple of champers might do the trick as well, he warns, "just stick to the beer!"
On the topic of unusual cures for colic, Dr Paul says on occasion he has seen a trip in the horse float help spasmodic colic, saying, "the movement of a gentle ride in the float can also have a relaxing affect on the bowel in cases of spasmodic colic and can cause the horse to manure, but once again, I wouldn't recommend this in all cases!"
The overiding professional advice here appears to be if you're concerned your horse has colic, feel free to give him a beer, but also contact the vet in case the colic is more severe than spasmodic colic and the horse needs knowledgeable assessment and treatment.
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