Choking in horses is a little different to choking in humans. With us, it is an obstruction of the windpipe; in horses, it is an obstruction of the foodpipe and therefore not quite as dangerous, says vet Emma Cassidy from Oaklands Equine Hospital in North Yorkshire.
What choke looks like
Horses with choke can present in a number of ways. They can seem distressed, cough and have some nasal discharge. You might feel a ‘lump’ on the left side of the neck, but this depends on how far down the obstruction is.
Most chokes will pass on their own within about 10 minutes, but some horses might need a little extra help.
What to do
The best thing you can do as an owner is don’t panic. Take all food away from your horse and allow plenty of clean water.
The severity will depend on what is causing the obstruction, but if you are concerned about your horse having choke, call your vet straight away. We are more than happy to give advice over the phone for your horse’s individual issue and happy to attend if it is deemed necessary.
How to prevent choke
In terms of prevention, keep up with your regular dental examinations, always cut vegetables length ways rather than width ways (carrot sticks rather than circular pieces, for example) and make sure that anything that expands with water is sufficiently soaked.
Feeds should also be safely locked away so that no greedy ponies can get in and gorge.
Lastly, discourage strangers from feeding your horses. This is easier said than done, but vets have seen a lot of horses who have had weird and wonderful things fed to them over the fence during the coronavirus pandemic, some of which can be dangerous.
Your Horse’s First Aid Week is in partnership with Absorbine.