Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Dead Mouse, Bird or other Animal in Water Trough

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

  • To discuss your equine's general health and management.

You check your horse’s water trough and notice a dead animal floating in it. What should you do?

Drinking water can be contaminated by carcasses of dead birds or other animals. Botulism is the primary risk. Botulism is likely fatal if not caught very early and treated aggressively. For that reason, it is worth taking this seriously.

Drain the water trough and clean it with dilute bleach to fresh water 1:10. Rinse well (ensuring all bleach is removed) before refilling it with fresh water. Dispose of or bury the carcass away from your horses and other animals. Wear gloves when you handle the carcass.

Illness resulting from this situation is very rare. However, it is still a good idea to monitor the horse carefully for several days following the cleaning of the water tank.


Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to any signs of weakness or wobbliness (ataxia), or any abnormal behavior. Monitor attitude and appetite closely.

Call your vet immediately if you notice even a subtle problem, and tell them that you found a dead animal in the water trough.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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