When Is Choke Not A One-And-Done Emergency For Horses?

Choke in horses is always an emergency. Though some horses may resolve a choking episode on their own, others may behave as if they’re colicking, throwing themselves on the ground. Horses may hold their necks out and down, in odd positions. Often the only signs a horse has a blockage in his esophagus are a frequent cough or s a mix of feed and saliva dripping out through his mouth or nostrils. Sometimes the obstruction can actually be seen as a lump on the side of the neck. 

Unlike a choking human, a choking horse is not at risk of imminent death because the organs used to swallow food and to deliver air to the lungs are not shared in the same way there are with people, so a food obstruction will not hinder a horse’s breathing. Still, a choking horse should be kept quiet and away from food and water, either until he passes the obstruction or until a veterinarian can be called in to assist. A vet will pass a tube down the esophagus and try flush the blockage down with water. 

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If a horse chokes repeatedly, it’s worthwhile to investigate the cause, Dr. Melina Freckleton tells EQUUS. The first step is to check the horse’s teeth, in case dental problems are inhibiting the horse from chewing and swallowing properly. 

If that doesn’t uncover a cause, it’s time to dig a bit deeper and see if he has physical or behavioral issues that are causing him to choke. Look first at how the horse is fed — is he fed in a quiet stall with no neighbors harassing him, or is he fed on a fence line where he must bolt his food to get anything to eat? A horse that eats too quickly is more inclined to choke.

To determine if there is a physical issue that’s causing a horse to choke, taking a closer look at the esophagus is key. The vet will snake a long endoscope down the horse’s esophagus to see if any injuries have caused scar tissue that make the esophagus more narrow, causing food to get trapped. In other cases, the esophageal wall can weaken, allowing a pocket where feed can accumulate.

A horse that chokes repeatedly can cause and worsen damage to his esophagus, and potentially develop aspiration pneumonia, a serious health issue. It’s imperative to find out why a horse is choking and to make management changes to prevent its recurrence. 

Read more at EQUUS magazine. 

The post When Is Choke Not A One-And-Done Emergency For Horses? appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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