Choke is a condition that can occur in horses when feed or hay gets stuck somewhere in their esophageal tract. Unlike choking in humans when the airway is blocked, choke in horses is usually not a life-threatening condition. The horse is able to breathe, just not swallow. Obviously, it can be very uncomfortable and needs to be addressed ASAP, as it can definitely lead to stress-induced colic and/or aspiration pneumonia if left untreated for a period of time.
If you suspect your horse is choking, immediately remove all feed and hay. Call the vet, and while you are waiting for him/her, try to keep the horse comfortable while alternately massaging their throat/neck and opening their mouth to attempt to clear the built-up saliva, etc.
We had this exact situation arise at the Green Barn just a few weeks ago. One of our horses, Aidan, didn’t seem interested in his PM feed, and was acting very uncomfortable. Rolling, pacing… showing very “colic-like” symptoms. I knew that it was choke over colic, however, when I noticed that he was craning his neck, making a whining sound out of his throat, and saw the presence of a ton of greenish fluid coming out of his mouth/nose. I followed the above steps, and before the vet even got there, I had dislodged the mass and Aidan was back to normal. Whew!!
Thank God for the “how-to deal with choke” article I read recently!
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