Choking... Scary!! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 07-13-2020, 08:46 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2020
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Choking... Scary!!

Hi guys -- you might have seen me on the Horse Training board talking about Rosie, and I'm back making a new thread. Something really scary happened today, and I was wondering if it's happened to anyone else. I just wanted to talk about it :'(

I was sitting with Rosie while she enjoyed some alfalfa. It was super cold and windy today, so I decided to forego riding entirely and just spend some quality time patting her down and letting her eat by herself. My other mare is rather aggressive about hay, so I try to give Rosie reprieves from her herdmate's foolishness and let her enjoy her food in peace.

A helicopter passed overhead at one point, and Rosie lifted her head to listen. Then she made this sad little sound and began stretching her neck out, like a dog trying to retch. I've never had a horse start choking on me, so it was terribly scary!! I took the rest of her alfalfa away, and called my vet within two minutes of this behavior.

That might be SUPER fast to begin freaking out about things, but veterinary care is very inexpensive where I live, and I've always been a "better safe than sorry" person. My vet lives/operates about 7 minutes away, so asking for a house call is not a HUGE deal for me.

During the wait, she produced a fair bit of green drool and snot. Not quite a steady flow, but I stood quietly and rubbed her forehead for about 15-17 minutes until the vet arrived. About 2 minutes before the vet pulled up, she gave one final heave, smacked her lips around a lot, and stopped. The drooling/snot stopped, and she seemed to swallow without issue.

The vet arrived, checked her over, took her temperature, and gave her some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory injections, just in case her throat was injured while she was gagging. She'll be back tomorrow for a follow-up (and another on Wednesday), but in the meantime I've put Rosie in her stall with some clean water.

Have any of your horses choked in the past? Is there any way I can prevent this from happening again? Anything I should look out for? My horses basically live in my backyard, so I'll be checking on her a lot for the next few days.
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post #2 of 10 Old 07-13-2020, 08:59 PM
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I had one choke on me a couple times. One time it was bad enough that I had to have the vet out to tube him. The first time it happened, it was on an alfalfa cube that hadn't been soaked long enough. My farrier was there and rubbed his neck. We took away the food and I gave the vet a call. The vet was very unconcerned and said that it would probably work itself out after about 30 minutes or so. I gave it 30 minutes and called her back.

She sounded irritated that I called back but she come out and that was when she ended up tubing him because it was really stuck. It was a bloody mess. I've had a few colics where they've warned about blood from the nose when you tube but need had any. This was blood everywhere. It looked like a crime scene. Of course he was being really obnoxious about the tube (I don't blame him).

It took him a few days to get over it. I kind of treated it like a colic - not because of his tummy - but because of the swelling and soreness in his throat. The same horse choked a few times on me over the years - but never that bad. Once he did it on an apple slice. When I got him he had been really neglected and was several hundred pounds under weight. Even though we were together for over 30 years - he never did get over that need to eat all the food he was given as quickly as he could. Even though he never had to worry about that as long as I had him.

I'm sure you were pretty scared. I would suggest making sure food is soft for a few days.

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post #3 of 10 Old 07-13-2020, 10:14 PM
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Choke is scary. I'm glad your horse is okay.

I had one choke on a tall, rough weed. We were 65 miles from town. No horse trailer.

Just the roots were still out of his mouth and he was getting unsteady on his legs. I had no choice but to pull it out. That was successful, but caused a lot of small tears and swelling.

I loaded him up with dexamethasone to reduce inflammation in soft tissue. That allowed him to breathe better, but not great.

Still, that trusting horse loaded into the back of the pick up that I had stock racks on. Those are common in big, rough country where a horse trailer won't fit. I drove into town.

I felt bad when I passed an elementary school that was getting out. The kids stared with mouths hanging open. A couple yelled, "Ewwww!"

Yes. Poor horse was a terrible sight. Head hanging. Foamy, bloody saliva coming from his mouth and nose. His pretty, flea-bitten grey chest speckled with blood.

The vet checked him over, didn't find more to do.Kept him while I went and got pelleted feed that would soften nicely. We watched him another hour, loaded up and drove home.

Although the catch pasture (a smallish one of about ten acres where I kept horses I was using) had plentiful good feed, the horses all seemed to like that weed. I can't remember what it was. I dug everyone of them up.
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post #4 of 10 Old 07-13-2020, 10:22 PM
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Southern Indiana
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Been through it several times and it never gets less scary although you do learn not to panic. Only needed the vet out once, the rest of the time I was able to push it on down by using firm, downward strokes (only) on their neck. If you feed any kind of hard feed or pellets mix some cooking oil in it for a few days. I don't know if it helped the horse but it made me feel like I was at least doing something that might help slide the food along easier.
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post #5 of 10 Old 07-14-2020, 01:56 AM
Join Date: Aug 2013
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Choking sucks. I have a tb cross mare here who turned into a harder keeper when she hit 15, who's a chronic choker. The only time we've ever dealt with choke before I was ... thirteen? I think. And it was a bad one. Our old mare choked on a massive thorn stalk in her overnight hay and was in rough shape in the morning. Bloody foam coming from her mouth and nose, had to be tubed then got an infection.

When I started feeding my tb cross more, I started with soaked alfalfa and beet pulp pellets. She choked twice in one day mildly, then every day after that for almost two weeks. It was a terrible ordeal, but taught me to stay calm in those kinds of events. Eventually I figured out a way to feed that reduced her risk of choke but she still will probably once a month. I have to make her pellets a thin soup, and dump it in a loooong shallow pan/trough so it's not more than an inch or two deep. It takes her forever to eat but so far so good. Thankfully only one of her many bouts of choke required the vet to come out, and when he got there it had passed. She's also one of those dummys who will sink up to her eyes in a bucket of mush, and inhale it with her nose and all, so I can imagine why she chokes so much haha.
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post #6 of 10 Old 07-14-2020, 09:28 AM
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My OTTB is a choker...
He is low man in the pecking order so often he was chased away from food when kept in a herd situation of group fed before I got him.
So he learned to grab a huge mouthful and bolt it down running away, he would then return and do the same as he was chased off.
Today he never eats dry food....everything feed wise is at the least wet with water and preferably soaked and expanded already.
His hay is dry but there are enough piles out he can eat even if moved off he is not choke on hay, only the dratted feed.
He eats locked in a stall where he is safe to eat at his pace, snail pace... and no one can steal his rations.
With that he is better, but once a choker always a choker and never again do I wish to watch nor put my horse through that ordeal.
Since we wet/soak I also now easily give extra salt to increase water intake and I pour minimum of 3 gallons over his feed he dutifully drinks and licks every drop of it up.
Any supplements, worm medication all go in the pan, watered and stir to mix it up...the horse loves to eat his feed so nothing is ever wasted or left behind.
Horse is a slob of a eater, but we feed on the floor from large round pan feeders and have a large clean stall mat under the pan that catches all the droppings...and all are licked up clean as a whistle.
Since the last episode of choke now almost 2 years repeats and I hope to keep it that way too.
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post #7 of 10 Old 07-14-2020, 10:30 AM
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I've only dealt with it once and I hope I never do again. My mare was boarded at a place where the care was typically great, but one evening a new barn assistant took a shortcut on soaking hay cubes and my poor mare choked. This was a barn where no one was on site after 8pm, but fortunately she was found choking in her stall around 6ish. Vet came quickly but had trouble tubing her, which made the whole situation even more anxious. Luckily, the blockage was mild enough that it broke up with some massaging and she didn't have any problems with infection despite the rough treatment with the tube. *Knock on wood* that was the one and only time, but all my horses now get a cup of water poured over their hard feed year round.

Hope your horse recovers easily!
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post #8 of 10 Old 07-14-2020, 10:58 AM
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My mare choked badly twice last summer. The first time I did not catch it and she went all night blocked. The vet tried to tube her but was a new vet and not great with horses. It was a HUGE mess. A second vet had to come and clear her. We soaked all of her feed after that. Her next choking episode was on wet feed about 2 weeks later and not quite as bad but had to be tubed again. The vet theorized that she had developed a pocket from the first episode so we made a mush of all of her feeds for the next few weeks. I watch her diligently at feeding time and she has a slow feed pan now and get her feed wetted down.
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post #9 of 10 Old 07-14-2020, 01:34 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2020
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My horses are almost entirely pasture-kept. I just give them grain and alfalfa periodically as a treat, and semi-regularly during the winter months to keep them sassy. The grain I feed them is pretty much just a cereal mix I buy locally... Rosie eats at a pretty regular pace, and I usually put my two mares in their stalls for grain-time to prevent bullying. Is there something else I should be doing? I'm extremely thankful I didn't have to tube her this time, and I'd like to avoid a serious choke if I can 😰😢 I'm terribly paranoid about this becoming a chronic issue.
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post #10 of 10 Old 07-14-2020, 02:19 PM
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Sometimes there are "pockets" of scar tissue along the esophagus which is what hang the food up on and then builds up till blockage happens.
My vet told me no matter the feed/grain fed to who choked in the past, wet it so it is expanded before it is taken in the mouth...
If it expands before it hits the saliva of the mouth, it can expand no more and close off their throat and so then that moisture of water adds slippery factor when they swallow you just reduced choke chances..
Easier to go down a tube when lubed with water than hit a drop of moisture and stick around for swelling inside a small tube of the throat.

For me and my animals, no one feeds my guy dry one.
Standing rule is to take the extra 3 minutes and add food starts to moisten fast and by the time I'm done dishing and adding anything to their pans, bringing a pan to each one the food is softened, moistened and ready to eat.
Best is I also know my horse is getting enough fluids extra in the heat of summer dehydration I don't fret about..
In winter, I use a thermos of boiling, boiling starts to quickly expand the food, then add some cold water to make it temperate and safe to swallow ...takes about a minute more than summer quick..

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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