Choke in Horses

Choke in Horses

Few of us worry about choke in horses. Though it is not immediately life threatening, choke is not something we should take lightly.

If choke is recognized and treated immediately it is usually not serious, even though an episode can look alarming.  Unlike people choking, equine choke doesn’t interfere with the ability to breathe.  Choke occurs when a large mouthful of incompletely chewed food (or possibly a foreign object) becomes lodged in the horse’s esophagus.  If not treated immediately – choke could require surgical intervention.  It is best to contact our office as soon as you noticed there may be a problem.

Your horse has a four foot tube that goes from his throat to his stomach, and sometimes they may swallow something that is too large to pass.  When this happens, the muscles of the esophagus will contract around the object and begin to spasm and then lock it into place.  Your horse will probably show a look of panic, shake his head, stop eating and drooling a lot.  In a nut shell – your horse will show signs of discomfort.  Choke can occur for many reasons.  One could be that your horse has difficulty chewing due to dental issues.

Regular dental exams are important and can help prevent choke from happening.  Also if you feed pellets or cubes you may consider soaking your horses feed first to soften it.  You can also slow down the “speed eater” by placing a salt block in the middle of the feeder.  And offering bite-size treats instead of whole apples or carrots can also prevent choke from happening.

If you have any questions or think that your horse may be at risk, please call our office at 505-869-2627 and we would be glad to answer any questions you may have.