What is choke ?
Choke occurs when the esophagus is blocked by a bolus of feed material. The most common sign of choke is finding your horse coughing after eating with saliva and feed material coming out of both nostrils. Horses will typically stop eating and may try to swallow whilst stretching their head. Horses can choke on any feed material including hay, pellets, carrots and apples or bedding
What should you do ?
- Call your veterinarian immediately
- Remove all feed, hay and water. Allowing your horse to continue to eat and drink will increase their risk of aspirating foreign material into their lungs and developing a pneumonia
Risk factors for choke
There are several factors that can predispose your horse to choke.
- Poor dentition – horses that do not receive routine veterinary dental care are at higher risk for choking as they may not be able to chew their food adequately
- Horses that eat their food very quickly
- Feeding a sedated horse
- Horses who have a history of choke
Complications of choke
A common complication of choke is aspiration pneumonia (lung infection). This occurs when the horse inadvertently inhales food material into the lungs. Depending on the severity and duration of the choke, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent this serious complication. It is advisable to monitor your horse’s temperature daily for 7 days following an episode of choke.
Tips to Help Prevent Choke
- Ensure your horse receives regular dental care by an equine veterinarian
- If your horse is known to gulp/bolt his feed, place large rocks in their feed bin so they will have to eat around the rocks and slow their feed intake
- Ensure your horse always has access to clean, fresh water
- Dampen your horse’s feed prior to feeding
- Do not allow a sedated horse access to hay or hard feed for up to 2 hours following sedation