What to do if your horse experiences a choke

  • When a horse bolts his food too fast and it becomes stuck in the oesophagus — the food tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach — this is known as oesophageal choke.

    Choke can cause a great deal of distress to a horse and signs include sweating, pain, coughing, retching and excess salivation with food coming down the nose.

    The condition can be serious and may even result in pneumonia if food is inhaled into the lungs.

    Fortunately, most chokes clear themselves quickly — usually within about 20min.

    This is because the body does a good job of gradually moistening the food and pushing it towards the stomach.

    But when this fails to happen, the horse chokes.

    If your horse experiences a choke episode, it is vital to remove all food and water and keep him comfortable. If it hasn’t cleared itself within 20min, it’s time to call the vet.

    For the full veterinary article on when to call the vet, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (18 August, 2011)

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