Choke in horses occurs when the animal has an obstruction made of food stuck somewhere between the back of the mouth and the stomach within the gullet, which can be more correctly described as the oesophagus.
Signs of choke
Horses with choke are typically in a very distressed state, coughing and spluttering with general signs of discomfort. Sometimes, food and saliva pour from their mouth and nose as profuse green slime. While horses cannot vomit in the same way as people do, while suffering from acute choke they will retch in an unpleasant fashion.
Other signs of choke include:
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Intermittent bending and stretching of the neck in an attempt to shift the blockage
- Occasionally there may be a visible swelling or lump that can be felt on the left side of the neck at the top of the oesophagus
Paradoxically, affected horses may still try to eat, even though the food passage is blocked, which is hazardous as it means food material has the potential to go the wrong way into the lungs. If the blockage does not shift, most will lose their appetite and then they run the risk of becoming dehydrated.