What Are the Causes of Flank Pain in Horses?

Most commonly, flank pain in horses is the result of gastrointestinal ulcers, with symptoms including poor appetite, behavioral changes or changes in performance, cinchiness, teeth grinding and more than usual laying down time.

Gallbladder disease can also cause right side abdominal flank pain similar to colic but with stronger symptoms.

Abdominal pain

Abdominal colic refers to any form of abdominal discomfort originating in the digestive tract. If your horse exhibits abdominal colic symptoms such as repeatedly pawing with their front feet, looking backward at their flank region, arching of their neck arching backward and sweating it is important to contact a veterinarian as this could indicate they are suffering significant pain which could potentially have life threatening repercussions.

Adhesions in the abdomen are one of the leading causes of colic in horses. These fibrous connections form following injury to either stomach or intestine and restrict blood flow to that area, leading to inflammation, diarrhea and, occasionally, obstruction of the bowel. Treatment typically includes surgery to remove fibrous tissue as well as medication to limit further adhesion formation; firoxicib (Prevequine or Previcox) should be given instead as prolonged use can result in gastric ulcers or hindgut colic; alternatively non-steroidal anti-inflammatorys should be given instead; firoxicib may provide better results as they reduce adhesion formation.

Colic can also be caused by gastrointestinal ulcers. These ulcers form when unhealed acid burns are left untreated in the stomach lining due to swallowed food containing hydrochloric acid as well as volatile fatty acids and bile acids; untreated ulcers may lead to loss of appetite, depression and intestinal blockage.

Urinary tract infection

An infected horse can experience flank pain due to infection traveling from their bladder up through their ureters into kidneys located just under their rib cage, often creating dull initial pain that then grows increasingly sharp as infection advances.

Horses cannot speak, so their pain signals must be expressed through behavior such as pawing, biting at their sides or staring at their flanks; flank watching or colic can occur and it is important that we be aware if our horses display this type of behavior.

Colic can be caused by abnormal intestinal motility or impaction resulting from hard and dry feed ingestion that distends or displaces an intestine and distends or distends it further. It often appears when consumed alongside diets rich in course fibers and roughages with low digestibility ratings.

One sure sign that something may be amiss with your horse is their inappetence or lack of interest in food, as well as manure production reducing, which would indicate something is amiss. Your veterinarian may run bloodwork and even perform urine culture tests on them in addition to performing these checks.

Bladder stones

Calcium, oxalate and uric acid found in urine may form stones that block urine flow or require surgical removal to pass or be passed successfully through. This condition is known as urethral obstruction or cystitis and symptoms may include bloody urine as well as straining to urinate.

Gastric ulcers in horses are caused by a combination of hydrochloric acid and volatile fatty acids that create burning sensations on their stomach lining, small or large intestines and/or the surface of their craters, eventually healing but leaving vulnerable holes for bacteria or toxins to penetrate and enter their bloodstream, potentially leading to colic symptoms in them.

If a horse displays symptoms of colic, they should be assessed immediately by a veterinarian as delayed treatment could prove fatal for their life. Horses suffering from colic are likely experiencing pain and an elevated heart rate as well as repeatedly raising their front legs or arching their backs in response to treatment delays.

Some horses with impaction of the large bowel (colic) do not experience high fever, decreased appetite or abdominal pain associated with this condition. When caught early enough before full impact occurs, many horses respond well to fluids, laxatives and pain medication; but in cases where surgery becomes necessary surgery may be necessary as a treatment option.

Back pain

If your horse exhibits signs of back pain, contact a veterinarian immediately. It could be a serious medical emergency that requires surgery – leaving untreated could prove fatal for your animal. Back pain in horses often stems from colic; horses in severe pain often show unusual behavior such as repeatedly looking at their flank, raising their upper lips and arching their necks, rolling from side to side, pawing with front feet, kicking hind legs upward towards their abdomens, sweating profusely or straining or urinating as ways of soothing their suffering. Additionally, straining or urination attempts will often help relieve their suffering as an attempt at relief from their suffering.

Causes of this form of back pain usually stem from fibrous adhesions (tight bands) connecting organs in the abdomen. Such adhesions may result from injury, inflammation, or longterm distention of the small intestine; when they impinge upon blood flow in this organ and reduce it dramatically resulting in pain, high heart rate, rapid dehydration. Treatment includes fluids, painkillers and mineral oil to ease adhesions.

Other back problems, like sacroiliac joint disease, may also cause horses to experience back pain. Sacroiliac joints support heavy loads during exercise and athletic activity while remaining susceptible to travel stressors like training sessions and competitions. Horses affected with this disorder usually display back discomfort along with resistance to being saddled, girthiness and changes in attitude.

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