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Sand colic is the accumulation of sand in the hindgut which can be caused when the horse eats feed from the ground or pasture that is cut too short, especially when the soil is of a high sand content. The build of sand is simply what is being ingested minus what is being passed. Large amounts of accumulated sand will require surgical intervention to remove the sand from the caecum. Often, untreated sand colic can be fatal.
Once the sand build up becomes too much and a physical blockage occurs the symptoms change to those of Obstructive colic.
Horses grazing short pastures, or hay from the ground, will often ingest sand. Sand colic is the accumulation of sand throughout the digestive tract, predominantly in the caecum and colon. The caecum is the blind ended sac (the same as the appendix in humans) so once the sand has accumulated at the bottom of the caecum it is hard to remove. Sand colic is slow to onset, and symptoms do not appear until such time as the amount of sand in the gut causes obstructive colic where the horse shows physical signs of discomfort and can lead to rupture of the intestine. Initially the build up of sand puts pressure upon the wall of the stomach or intestine causing the restriction of blood flow resulting in a dull constant pain. The horse will usually display no, or low grade symptoms at this stage.
Eventually the build up of sand will reach the stage where the amount of sand causes a physical blockage in the digestive tract. Digesta will accumulate in front of the sand causing distension, and acute pain. The accumulation will continue until such time as the blockage clears, or the hindgut ruptures, releasing digesta into the abdominal cavity, causing peritonitis, and death.