What is choke?
Choke is a common condition that occurs when the oesophagus becomes obstructed.
There are many reasons choke occurs in the horse but the most common reasons are listed below:
- Dry Food – inadequately soaked sugar beet is a common cause
- Inadequate chewing – due to dental problems or bolting food
- Foreign material – for example shavings, wood
- Feeding too quickly after sedation
- Sudden onset distress – often extending the head and neck downwards
- Nasal discharge often containing food
- Difficulty swallowing
A full clinical exam will be carried out by you veterinary surgeon. A nasogastric tube will often be passed and the inability to fully pass the tube confirms oesophageal obstruction. Some obstructions can also be palpated. In refractory cases an endoscope can be used for confirmation, although this is rarely needed.
Many cases recover spontaneously but those that don’t should be starved until a vet is present. Horses that choke are often sedated and spasmolytics administered intravenously to relax the oesophagus. If this does not clear the obstruction a nasogastric tube is passed and gentle lavage is used to try and soften material so it will pass down to the stomach. Most cases will be given antibiotics to prevent aspiration pneumonia. This can occur if the horse inhales food material down the trachea into the lungs. In the rare occasion when the choke is prolonged or very severe, referral for further investigation may be needed.
- Soak dry food
- Ensure fresh water is always available
- Trickle feed if your horse bolts its food
- Ensure your horse receives regular dental checks
- Always slice carrots, apples etc.
The above information is a basic guideline only. If your horse chokes contact your veterinary surgeon for advice.