Colic is generally defined as abdominal pain and discomfort caused by spasm, obstruction, or distention of any of the hollow viscera, such as the intestines. It is classified by symptoms and signs, rather than diagnosis, because colic is not a disease. The term colic can involve a large category of gastrointestinal conditions which cause severe pain as well as ones not involving the gastrointestinal tract. No matter what the cause, all forms of colic can develop into a deadly condition and should be reviewed by a veterinarian immediately following discovery.
Colic is the number one cause of premature equine death and effects 10%-11% of the total horse population. This painful condition can be caused by, though causes are not limited to, the following: High grain based diets/low forage diets, moldy/tainted feed, abrupt change in feed, parasite infestation, lack of water consumption leading to impaction colics, sand ingestion, long term use of NSAIDS, stress, dental problems and impaction; A blockage formed by something the horse has ingested. Many of these can be controlled by proper care, therefore the number one prevention of illness is responsible ownership and careful attention to paddocks, stalls, watering tanks and regular maintenance of dental and deworming necessities.
The symptoms of colic to be on the look out for are bloating, biting at flanks, pawing, rolling(sometimes violently), sweating, distress, loss of interest in food, water, treats etc., absence of digestive sounds in gut and strange standing positions such as stretching to relieve pain.
As was mentioned before, all cases of colic are serious and a veterinarian should be contacted immediately following discovery of an ill horse. Waiting to see if conditions worsen will result in either high surgical expenses or untimely death of your equine friend.