Choke is no joke

Choke is no joke

By Wendy Talbot on 03 June 2021

Choke is no joke

Choke is the obstruction of oesophagus – usually by food. It can be frightening to witness but thankfully many cases of choke will resolve quite quickly without any intervention.

Signs of choke

Your horse may stretch his head out, cough and look distressed. This is because food or a foreign body has become stuck in his oesophagus (not windpipe).

You are also likely to see saliva and food material coming out of your horse’s nostrils because the blockage isn’t allowing it to pass down through the digestive tract.

What to do if your horse has choke

Try not to panic. Take away all food and water and keep your horse quiet and relaxed. The blockage may pass of its own accord with no intervention as the horse’s constant production of saliva softens the material that is stuck.

If the episode of choke has lasted for more than 30 minutes, it’s important to call your vet who may need to sedate your horse and administer an anti-spasmodic drug to help the blockage pass into the stomach. In more severe cases further investigations may be needed such as the insertion of a nasogastric tube to identify where the obstruction is and flush it out with water.

The good news is that most cases of choke are usually resolvable on site by your vet.

How to reduce the risk of choke

  • Always a soak your horse's feed in water
  • Use a slow feeder and haynets to stop your horse chomping through his rations too quickly
  • Make sure your horse isn't competing with others for food and water which may cause him to eat rapidly or prevent from acessing the water supply
  • Chop carrots and other root vegetables into slim lengths rather than feed whole
  • Be sure your horse always has access to plenty of clean drinking water
  • Have your horse's teeth checked by a vet or qualified equine dentl technician at least annually


accessed 21 February 2022





Wendy graduated from Bristol University in 1999. She then went on to complete a residency at Liverpool University and holds a European Diploma in Equine Internal Medicine. After working in practice for 13 years, she joined Zoetis in 2012 as the National Equine Veterinary Manager.

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