Lisbon Veterinary Clinic

8100 Race Road
Lisbon, OH 44432


January 2012

Equine Choke

Douglas E. Wiley, DVM

What is it?

  • Feed stuff lodged in the horse's esophagus - not immediately life threatening
  • Humans choke when food is lodged at the opening to their trachea - very life threatening


  • Excessive and continuous drooling (salivation)
  • Unable to eat or drink
  • Anxious and uncomfortable
  • Stretching the neck
  • May cough with feed or saliva in the nostrils

What do they choke on?

  • Apples, large carrots, corncobs, grass clippings, sweet feed, hay, etc.

Why do they choke?

  • Age-related tooth loss, dental wear, or lack of floating
  • Bolting feed - greedy eaters
  • Anatomical problems - esophageal strictures


What you can do:

  • Call your veterinarian
  • Massage the left side of the neck
  • Walk the horse - moving the neck
  • Run water across the tongue - not down the throat

What your veterinarian will do:

  • Sedate the horse
  • Pass a nasogatric (stomach) tube - flush or push the obstruction down
  • Administer drugs
  • Refer for hospital or surgical care, if necessary


  • Soft, wet diet in small feedings for several days
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Antibiotics


  • Regular, quality dental care
  • Diet changes, depending on cause
  • Large stones in the feed box to slow down greedy eaters
  • Some horses become repeat offenders