Sand colic

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Sand Colic

Sand Impaction

Sand colic is a common problem for horses living in areas with loose, sandy soils. It is caused by the accumulation of sand in the horse's gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Horses consume sand from eating hay off of the ground, grazing in pastures, and when drinking from shallow mud puddles. On occasion, some horses are known to deliberately eat sand for unknown reasons.

As horses graze in paddocks containing sandy soil, they often will inadvertently ingest sand that may be present on the roots and other parts of the vegetation. Over time, this repeated ingestion of sand particles can lead to a blockage in their gastrointestinal tract, resulting in colic. The exact amount of sand required to cause a problem is not known, as it varies in each horse. As little as 8 kg of sand accumulation in some horses has required colic surgery due to sand impaction.

Clinical signs
During the early stages of sand colic, horses' fecal output may be normal, and the feces may or may not show evidence of sand within the texture. As the condition progresses, and the obstruction worsens, affected horses may show decreased fecal output or it may cease altogether. Diarrhea may occur a couple days prior to onset of signs of colic.


Large amounts of sand in feces
Moderate to severe signs of abdominal pain
Weight loss
Abdominal distension


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Abdominal Radiography
  • Abdominal Ultrasound
  • Fecal sand sedimentation test



Medical management
Colic surgery


  • Don't feed horses off of the ground; use a hanging feeder or bucket
  • Don't throw hay on the ground; place in hay nets, hay racks, or on rubber mats.
  • Providing good quality pasture
  • Limiting access to sandy areas or sandy paddocks
  • Feeding a high bulk diet
  • Daily supplementation with psyllium
  • Regularly perform feces sand test
  • Provide mineral/vegetable oil

Scientific Research

General Overviews

Risk Factors

  • Horses living in regions with sandy soils
  • Providing horses with feed or hay on the ground, as opposed to hanging a feed bucket or providing a feeder dish
  • Horses grazing on pastures with limited grass to graze
  • Mineral deficiencies resulting from an imbalanced diet