Attention! This is a potentially life-threatening condition for your horse. Time is of the essence, contact your veterinarian immediately.Find a Vet


Oesophageal Obstruction

Oesophageal obstruction, commonly referred to as 'choke', is an emergency condition in horses caused by the acute obstruction of the oesophagus by impacted, dry ingesta. It usually occurs during or briefly following feeding time at horse stables. Horses presenting with 'choke' are usually observed in a distressed behavioral state with copious reflex of a combination of saliva, ingesta and fluid coming out of the nostrils and mouth.

Ingestion of inadequately soaked sugar beet pulp can cause 'choke' in horses, as the dry fibrous material swells with the absorption of saliva in the oesophagus. The expanding bolus occludes the oesophageal lumen and subsequent boluses compound the obstruction.


Excessive salivation
Food particles dripping from mouth and nostrils
Repeated head and neck extension
Difficulty swallowing
Muscle spasms


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Endoscopy
  • Ultrasound

While waiting for your veterinarian

  • Immediately remove any hay or water.



Sedation and muscle relaxation
Spasmolytic therapyAdministration of spasmolytics
Nasogastric intubation
Standing oesophageal lavage
Lavage under general anaesthesia
Fluid therapy
Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory therapy


  • Soak feed and hay
  • Ensure that horse's teeth are floated at least once a year
  • Consider purchasing a special feeder to slow down fast eaters.
  • Feed horses at regular intervals


Depends on the length of time horse was experiencing choke without treatment.

Scientific Research

General Overviews

Risk Factors

  • Horses that bolt their feed down quickly
  • Previous history of choke or trauma to the esophagus
  • Feeding horses at irregular intervals
  • Horses with dental problems or overdue for teeth floating
  • Feeding horses that are dehydrated or exhausted
  • Older horses, due to a decrease in saliva production and often poor chewing of feed.