Horses that suffer choke are often prone to doing so again. They choke most frequently on greedily eaten dry foods (hay, grain), although it may be a complication of a narrowing of the oesophagus (the tube connecting the mouth with the stomach). Signs seen include the horse being anxious, arching its neck, and retching. Salivation is profuse and may be coming out both the nostrils as well as the mouth. Coughing is common, and the horse may paw at the ground, or show other general signs of colic. In foals, milk may run from the nostrils – NB this must be differentiated from cleft palate.
Prevention of choke in horses prone to this condition include avoiding feeding dry feed, and feeding the horse at ground level (to assist saliva flow). If there is an underlying problem causing narrowing of the oesophagus, correction of this cause if possible.
Most chokes resolve themselves after a few hours, as the saliva softens the mass causing the choke. If the condition persists more than a few hours, or the horse behaves in such a way that it may injure itself, call your vet. Often all the vet needs to do is to administer relaxants, and sometimes push the choking object through to the stomach by stomach tube. Some chokes are very difficult to correct and may take several attempts.