Feeding Choke-Prone Horses

Find out which horses are at the highest risk for feed-related choke and what you can do to reduce that risk.
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Feeding the Choke-Prone Horse
Specialized feed tubs, such as this one with molded cups in the bottom, can slow feed consumption and help prevent choke. | Photo: Courtesy Pre-Vent

To prevent esophageal obstruction, take a page from the scientific journals

Derby, your 15-year-old Thoroughbred, hasn’t finished his grain. A greenish nasal discharge and a large amount of saliva stream from his mouth. He also keeps extending his neck and coughing repeatedly, as if he’s trying to clear his throat. What’s going on here? 

Choke, or esophageal obstruction, occurs when food or foreign materials partially or completely block the esophagus. Choke might not be immediately life-threatening—he can still breathe—but it is distressing, will prevent your horse or pony from eating and drinking, and must be addressed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. In fact, many horses that have choked need to be on antibiotics to prevent or treat aspiration pneumonia, which can be deadly.

In this article, we will discuss which equid groups are at the highest risk for developing feed-related choke and suggest mealtime management techniques to help reduce those risks

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Written by:

Kristen M. Janicki, a lifelong horsewoman, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later attended graduate school at the University of Kentucky, studying under Dr. Laurie Lawrence in the area of Equine Nutrition. Kristen has been a performance horse nutritionist for an industry feed manufacturer for more than a decade. Her job entails evaluating and improving the performance of the sport horse through proper nutrition.

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