Horse Choke

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Horse Choke

This is a discussion on Horse Choke within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category
  • Treating horse for alfalfa pellet choke
  • Horse chokes on pellets

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  • 1 Post By drkate

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    06-10-2013, 01:32 PM
Horse Choke

My older gelding, Billy, is 28 years old. He is a pasture horse but gets extra grain daily to help him gain/keep weight on. He is being fed a mixture of 2/3 equine senior, 1/3 alfalfa pellets, a mineral supplement, as well as vegetable oil for extra calories. This mixture gets soaked in water to make sure everything is well mixed and soft for him to eat easily.
That being said: on Friday evening when I went out to feed him I noticed that he was swallowing weird. A few minutes later when I came back to check if he was done he was coughing and started to have mucus/food come though his nose and mouth. This especially scared me because I know that horses can't puke. (I've been around horses my entire life and know quite a lot about them). I called my vet and he immediately diagnosed it as choking. He told me to put Billy in the barn in a stall with no food and plenty of water until he was able to clear the obstruction on his own. After 2 days of stress, mucus, dehydration and praying that he'd make it through this Billy is now breathing normal again (but still having some issues breathing). He finally started to drink water again and is now eating soaked food (hay, grain, ect).

Do any of you have additional advice/precautions to take with him from now on?
I've read a lot of articles and such on horse choke but it's always nice to get "real" people's opinions. :)
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    06-10-2013, 03:12 PM
Dental issues are often the cause of choke in horses, especially older ones. One of the secondary complications of choke is pneumonia, because horses often aspirate the food/mucous into their lungs, so check your horses temperature for several days post choke, and also monitor his breathing/respirations. If he chokes again you need to get the vet out to tube him and flush out the cause of the choke, because many horses do not clear the obstruction on their own, and this will eventually kill them if it goes on too long. In my book choke is always a get the vet out emergency.
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    06-10-2013, 05:13 PM
Green Broke
You're lucky that vet's advise didn't kill the horse. Choke is an emergency situation. The blockage, if not quickly resolved can cause damage to the area blocked, causing decreased motility to that part of the esophagus (dead zone) which can lead to further choke episodes.

And as stated, pneumonia is a concern.

Proper treatment involves a vet passing a tube to dislodge the blockage, all of the blockage, prescribing antibiotics if indicated by the choke severity & lung assessment & possibly administering additional fluids to prevent dehydration.

Keep a very close eye on him. I hope luck stays on his side.
    06-10-2013, 05:28 PM
We have 2 horses prone to choke. One who is 26 yo and one who will be 13 yo soon. The 13 yo chokes on just about anything but pasture. The vets I have spoke to as well say to let the horse work it out UNLESS they have discharge from their nose. When the discharge comes out of the nasal cavity it because a big concern. We have no idea why our 13 yo chokes. He is on an all forage diet and get 1lb alfalfa/oat cubes, 1 lb alfalfa pellets, .5lb beet pulp twice a day. Everything is soaked until it is complete mush. Adding the alfalfa/oat cubes actually seems to help him from trying to eat to fast and he chews his food much better. As far as hay goes, he gets really "fine" grass hay soaked with water.
    06-10-2013, 05:47 PM
On a couple choking instances I have seen, sometime you can see a lump on their where it's clumped, you could help by massaging this to try to help it break up and move down. You would need to hold their head up and rub with some pressure. You have to give them their head back after a few seconds so they can work on getting it out. Of course it can be repeated. It is an emergency as said before and a vet should be notified. Hope this helps. Good luck with your horse, I wish him well.
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    06-11-2013, 06:10 PM
Thanks for the advice guys!
I did call the vet as soon as it happened; don't think that I just left it be without consulting help. Although my vet's advice was to let him work it out on his own since it was on a soft pellet diet he wouldn't have much trouble.
I am keeping an eye on him for pneumonia now, thanks for the tip!

Update: He is now back on pasture and eating grass fine. He ate pellets yesterday (soaked to the point of a gross mush) and seems to be doing okay on it.
    06-11-2013, 06:16 PM
Usually treatment is to pass a tube to lubricate the mass down. Grain choke tends to be easier to treat than grass or hay choke. They can pass it on their own but tubing reduces the risk of pneumonia, or dehydration (which can lead to colic).

Some horses will recurrently choke due to stricture of the esophagus. Which is basically they choke, get scar tissue formation and that makes the opening narrower which results in food getting stuck easier which leads to choke. So, moral of the story, if he choked once is is likely to choke again.

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