Choke

The most common esophageal conditions in horses is choking and it is always an emergency.

Typically, there is a cause to this condition like eating too quickly, food being too dry or suck together, or even a lack of water. Some horses may choke due to their dental health as well. Further, abnormal esophagus anatomy can also contribute a predisposition to choking, Food may form a firm bolus that becomes lodged in their esophagus. However, other items can also cause an obstruction like hay or straw, hard treats, carrots, and even, nonfood objects.

How to tell if your horse is choking?

  • The most common symptoms are hyper salivation, food or foam coming out of their nose and mouth
  • Some horses may become anxious and thrash around
  • Retching
  • Not eating
  • Acting colicky
  • Coughing

What to do when you suspect your horse is choking?

  • Immediately remove access to any food or hay.
  • Call your veterinarian
  • If you are knowledgable with medication administration, and your horse is extremely agitated, you can administer a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) like Banamine. Make sure to check the horse’s temperature before administering as NSAIDs will mask a fever.
  • Once the vet arrives they will preform a physical exam. Typically, they will insert a tube down the horse’s throat to flush out any compaction. This may have to be done multiple times.
  • Your horse maybe required to begin antibiotics depending on the veterinarian’s advise to help treat any aspiration or potential pneumonia.
  • You may need to keep your horse confined for a few horses (or days) depending on the severity of the choke.
  • You will need to check their temperature for a few days after choke to ensure that the horse has not developed an upper respiratory infection.
  • Depending on the cause, the veterinarian may schedule a dental float procedure, or have you wet the horse’s feed and/or hay or switch the feed entirely.