"The sand from his colon weighed 15kg!"

XLVets Equine's Dr. Aoife Byrne DrMedVet MRCVS tells us all about a curious case of colic. 

Working as an equine vet in Norfolk, any colic case is presumed to be sand related until proven otherwise. This wasn't the situation when I worked elsewhere in the U.K. or Ireland where sand wasn't even on my diagnostic radar.

Dougal'sx-ray revealed a large accumulation of sand in his ventral colon

Dougal'sx-ray revealed a large accumulation of sand in his ventral colon

Douglas presented with classic signs of an impaction colic

Douglas presented with classic signs of an impaction colic

This peculiarity to Norfolk lies in its coastal geography & unique geology.

During the winter months our practice diagnoses and treats a higher number of sand colic cases compared to other times of the year and this winter has been no different.

A recent case sticks in my memory due to the sheer amount of sand surgically removed from that gelding’s large colon.

Dougal, a piebald cob, presented with classic signs of an impaction colic and the diagnosis was confirmed with an abdominal x-ray revealing a large accumulation of sand in his ventral colon.

Despite an intensive protocol at our hospital consisting of intravenous pain relief medications and regular nasogastric tubing with a combination of psyllium & magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) he failed to respond to this medical treatment.

The sand from Dougal's colon weighed 15kg

The sand from Dougal's colon weighed 15kg

When he developed a large colon displacement and became unresponsive to painkillers we discussed the situation with the owner and decided it was time for Dougal to have surgery.

This meant that his colon could be manually emptied of sand and the displacement could be corrected at the same time.

The sand from his colon was carefully collected – and filled a third of a large plastic bin! It was dried & carefully measured. It weighed 15kg!

The general anaesthetic, surgery and recovery from anaesthesia went very well and he made a full recovery. I recently saw Dougal for his annual vaccinations and he's a picture of health.

Sand colic is preventable and we recommend to all our clients whose horses graze that they feed a daily dose ofpsyllium all year round – after all prevention is better than cure!