Today I am manning my garage sale for the 2nd day. The first day nearly sucked the life outta me (I will write about it…) and I didn’t have the brainpower to write anything last night. So, I decided to paw through the archives to find something old but good.
I found this post on Equine Choke. I remember this night, clearly. So, I figure if it is still on my brain a few years later, it would probably help a few of you in your hours of need – hopefully.
(Kisses to Aladdin who now whispers in my ear from above.)
Oy. Have you ever seen a horse choke? Or, have you seen a horse exhibiting the “choking syndrome“? Well, let’s hope it never happens to you. I’ve gotta tell you, feeling helpless is putting it too lightly. Basically, your horse is choking and there is nothing you can do. The horse gets something caught in it’s throat, he cannot throw up, so he just coughs and chokes himself until it dislodges, or it doesn’t… And, the really comforting thought is that if they make it through the choke, they can still succumb to equine pneumonia from aspirating a particle into the lung.
OK, this is what happened to me tonight. So, if it happens to you, remember this and maybe it will help.
I feel this event was totally created by me being brainless in a moment. You see, 20 year-old Aladdin (yes, the same horse that was in Intensive Care for 9 weeks) gets Senior feed plus grass hay. He has never had a problem eating, his teeth are great and I only feed him Senior because of the content. Anyway, in a brainless move, I decided to mix a new type of pellet in with his Senior. I thought, “Hey, he’d like this, why don’t I give him some of the new stuff. I’ll just mix it into his grain.” Except the new stuff was the pellet size of a Milk Dud, whereas the Senior is the size of a Red Hot. Alas, my huge error.
Aladdin chomped into his Senior and didn’t realize there were bigger bits in there. He started choking. Although he is a very dramatic gelding anyway, this was serious. His eyes were rolling, he was coughing, choking, pawing and staggering. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT TO DO. It isn’t as if you can perform the heimlich on him. I was dumbstruck and terrified. What have I done?!
I tried to massage his throat and he pulled away and staggered into his bedroom (his stall), coughing the entire time. Once in his stall, he put his butt into the wall and started sucking air through his nose with his nostrils actually flat against his lip as he gasped for air. His lower lip was trembling and he looked very worried. His sides were heaving as he struggled. I thought he was going to pass out – which they say can help if they don’t fall badly. If they pass out, they relax and this can help the item pass.
I ran to the house to get the phone (another bad thing — not having a cordless in the barn) and I called the vet. He said that he was at a colic and could be there in a few hours. Uhhhh. I asked what to do. He said that if he was going to suffocate from this, he would already be dead. What was important now was to keep him calm and still. No food. Fresh water.
Signs to look for: They usually foam at the nostril and mouth. This is the junk dissolving and coming up because he cannot swallow (so a good thing). They usually try to swallow a lot. This can create a sore throat. The best thing is for the muscles of the throat to relax so they quit clenching on the thing that is most likely trying to dissolve.
What the Vet will do: The vet will give the horse a sedative so that he relaxes his throat. Then, he will tube the horse gently to dislodge the item, being careful so that the horse doesn’t breath the item back in. Generally, the outcome is good. However, it is really important to watch the horse to make sure he didn’t aspirate anything. So, you need to take his temp three times a day and check his heart rate often the first few days to make sure he doesn’t develop pneumonia.
What happened to Aladdin… Well, he stood, rock still, in his stall and acted like he was really scared as he sucked any air possible. I ran to the Internet and checked everything that I could do. Basically it said that there was nothing one can do but call the vet, immediately. This was serious stuff. I went back to check on him in a half hour and he was the same. An hour later, he greeted me at the stall door and asked for dinner. He must have relaxed enough for the chunk to go down. I called the vet and told him to stand down for now. I asked what to do and he said to do what I described above. So far, no temp.
I’m not supposed to feed him tonight until his throat irritation calms down. So, I wet down some beet pulp and Senior for a big breakfast tomorrow. Wet food only for the next few days. I will take his temp religiously and check his heart.
So, what I say to you… don’t change up feed and mix big chunks with little chunks. But, choke can happen no matter, especially with food bolters and older horses. With older horses, you wet the feed. With bolters, you add rocks to their grain. Just remember, if this happens, you can massage the neck, but you should really just run and call the vet. Then, wait to see if it passes, and then monitor the heck out of the situation to make sure no pneumonia develops.
Above all, to keep calm, just remember what I thought to myself as I was running up to the house… “How often does this happen when I’m not around…”. I bet it does. So, while you are feeling helpless, think of that as you run through your paces. Most likely, he’ll figure it out. However, it is serious so CALL THE VET and watch him like a hawk — hopefully, you and your horse will be OK.