Colic in geriatric compared to mature nongeriatric horses. Part 1: Retrospective review of clinical and laboratory data


email: Dr Gassert's present address is 3690 Rabbit's Foot Trail, Apt 4, Lexington, Kentucky 40503, USA. Data were presented in part at the 9th International Equine Colic Research Symposium, Liverpool, UK, June, 2008.


Reason for performing study: It is the impression of some surgeons that geriatric horses have a lower survival rate compared to mature nongeriatric horses following colic surgery. One possible reason for this is that geriatric horses may be more critically ill at admission and have more severe disease than mature nongeriatric horses.

Objective: To compare admission historical, physical examination and laboratory data for geriatric and mature nongeriatric horses referred for signs of colic.

Methods: Medical records of horses admitted with a presenting complaint of colic between 2000 and 2006 were reviewed. Geriatric horses ≥16 years (n = 300) and mature nongeriatric horses 4–15 years (n = 300). Information obtained included duration of colic prior to admission, admission level of pain, heart rate, intestinal borborygmi, packed cell volume (PCV), plasma creatinine and blood lactate concentrations and peritoneal fluid total protein. Data were analysed using a Chi-squared test or an analysis of variance. Level of significance was P<0.05.

Results: There was no difference between geriatric and mature horses in the duration of colic prior to admission or in admission heart rate, PCV, or plasma creatinine or blood lactate concentrations. However, geriatric horses were more likely to be moderately painful and less likely to be bright and alert than mature horses; and less likely to have normal intestinal borborygmi than mature horses. Peritoneal fluid total protein concentration was higher in geriatric than mature horses.

Conclusions and potential relevance: Geriatric horses presenting with signs of colic had a similar admission cardiovascular status based on heart rate, PCV, and plasma creatinine and blood lactate concentration to mature horses. Geriatric horses, however, may have different causes of colic, which may be more serious than mature horses based on pain, lack of intestinal borborygmi and peritoneal fluid total protein concentration.