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Background information

The aim of this project is to develop guidelines to support horse owners and veterinary surgeons in decision-making in horses with colic. Colic is the most common emergency problem seen in the horse, and is one of the main causes of death in the horse. Most cases are very mild and will resolve with treatment, but a small percentage are critical, requiring surgery or euthanasia. Deciding which cases are critical and how to diagnose them as quickly as possible is important for the welfare and best outcome for the horse.

The Nottingham Colic Project is gathering evidence which can be used to develop best practice guidelines for diagnosing colic in the horse. We hope that this will help owners to recognise clinical signs of colic and when to seek veterinary assistance, and enable veterinary surgeons to identify critical cases as early as possible.

Best practice’ guidelines are evidence-based strategies, widely used in human medicine to support decision-making processes. The purpose of guidelines are to recommend care based on the best available evidence, reduce inappropriate variation in practice, and provide a focus for education and research. There are no such guidelines for the equine practitioner. Furthermore, equine veterinary literature is heavily weighted towards referral populations, so the data upon which such guidelines might be based are absent.  Colic is one of the most important causes of morbidity and mortality in the horse. There are only two published studies of ‘first opinion’ colic in the UK (Proudman 1992; Hillyer et al. 2001), and both are epidemiology studies of incidence and causes. There are no data on how colic cases present when first seen by the vet, which diagnostic tests are used, and how these relate to outcome. This information is essential as early diagnosis determines survival outcomes for critical conditions. The first or primary assessment of these cases is arguably the most important decision-making step.  This project will redress this major knowledge gap by evaluating presenting signs and diagnostic procedures for equine colic and then generating evidence-based guidelines that will have a wide impact on equine health and welfare.

Confidentiality, ethics and data collection: The study has been reviewed by the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science Ethics Committee, and by using your unique reference number, all the information you enter remains confidential (please contact us if you can't remember this number and we can resend it). In some cases, we may want to contact you or the practice for further information, for example, if results or case outcome were pending at the time of completing the form. You can choose to opt out of this in the relevant sections to keep your data completely anonymous. You have the right to access any data kept which relates to you. You have the right to withdraw from the study at any point.

Queries and results: If you have any problems or queries about the study, please contact Sarah Freeman ( or John Burford ( We will send out summaries of the final outcomes to everyone participating, and will keep you informed of our progress. Once again thanks for participating - veterinary literature is desperately lacking in evidence from front line practitioners, and your contribution will help redress this.