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All choked up?

What is choke?

In horses, choke is a condition that occurs when food or some other material becomes stuck in the esophagus. The term choke can be a bit confusing since in people, choking can refer to having something lodged in the trachea (airway).

A few reasons this occurs are because the horse is not chewing properly or the horse is eating too quickly.

What are signs of choke?

  • Discharge (sometimes containing feed material) coming from both nostrils and/or mouth.

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Some horses may make repeated, unsuccessful attempts to swallow.

  • Not wanting to eat or drink

  • Coughing

  • Lethargy

What should you do if you suspect a horse is choking?

  1. Call a veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. It is important to have the horse treated as soon as possible to decrease the risk of aspiration pneumonia, scarring of the esophagus and/or rupture of the esophagus.

  2. All feed should be removed from the horse's stall/pen in order to prevent the obstruction from becoming worse.

How can you prevent choke?

  • Have a yearly dental/oral examination performed on your horse by a veterinarian to ensure that your horse can chew properly.

  • Hay can be placed in a hay net or some type of slow feeder.

  • Soaking pelleted feed will make it easier for a horse to swallow.

  • Horses may need to be fed separately, so that each horse can eat without being disturbed by others.

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