Horse unable to swallow due to swede stuck in roof of mouth

A vet has reminded owners about how to feed root vegetables after a horse struggled to swallow when a piece became lodged in its mouth.

Craig Rutland, partner at Catley Cross Veterinary Clinic in Essex, attended the horse, who had presented with choke-like symptoms, at the end of January.

Craig told H&H: “The horse was in a lot of distress and the owner phoned us thinking it was choke, an esophageal obstruction when food becomes stuck in the gullet.

“When I attended and we went through the horse’s history I asked if she had been feeding anything unusual and the owner mentioned she had fed some swede. Once looking in the horse’s mouth it wasn’t easy at first to work out what I was looking at but it twigged it must have been a piece of swede.”

The owner had fed the swede cut into quarters.

“The owner had read that root vegetables have health benefits for horses which is right and people do feed swede and turnips, but the fact she had quartered it, it happened to be the right size to get wedged into the roof of the horse’s mouth,” said Craig.

“It was a big chunk about a third of the palm of my hand and it got lodged up between the left and right rows of cheek teeth, right across the roof of the mouth. It must have felt quite odd to the horse to have that sort of sensation in the mouth ­as it would have taken up quite a bit of space. It was preventing the tongue from assisting the horse to swallow so the saliva was pouring out and he couldn’t swallow properly.”

Craig said it took “quite a bit of manoeuvring” to remove the swede but there was no damage and the horse was “absolutely fine” afterwards.

“I’ve not seen a large piece of food get stuck in a horse’s mouth like that before. The teeth were well maintained – it was unfortunate the swede happened to be the exact size to get wedged. It’s the equivalent to us having a fishbone stuck – the sensation is horrible and it’s a similar thing for a horse,” he said.



“This wouldn’t be called choke classically, but to the average horse owner it would look like it. I’ve seen choke a lot, the most common cause being not soaking sugar beet long enough, or a horse or pony breaking into a feed store and eating unsoaked sugar beet which can swell in the gullet.”

Craig recommends if owners are feeding swedes and turnips to do this whole or suspend them by a rope in the stable.

“Drill a hole through the swede and thread a rope through it. You can get plastic stoppers that stop the swede being pulled straight through and you can attach it to a tie up ring in the stable or feed it whole and the horse can bite off bits itself,” he said.

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