Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Yawning

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

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

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.

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

  • If this is the only sign you notice. The horse seems well to you otherwise.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Yawning is common in normal horses, but the reasons for this behavior are not well understood. Unlike people, horses typically do not inhale when they yawn in response to a drop in blood oxygen levels. But just like us, horses do seem to yawn when they are awaking from sleep or are drowsy.

Pain may be a stimulus for yawning. Some horses experiencing abdominal pain (colic) yawn. Horses with certain neurologic diseases yawn too. I have seen horses experiencing oral or temporo-mandibular joint pain yawn.

My own horses often yawn after I remove a bit from their mouth. I also have seen horses yawn during stressful situations, momentarily resting after a period of stress.

Horses occasionally yawn when anxious in a stall, especially when they are awaiting feed. In some cases, this behavior appears to be a stall vice.

WHAT TO DO

If you notice that your horse is yawning more than normal, that is a good starting point for additional observations.

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to when yawning occurs and its frequency, as well as your horse’s attitude and appetite. Record this over time and be on the lookout for any other abnormal behaviors. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

Taken alone, this observation is usually too broad a sign to help your vet narrow down the problem. In most cases, it is a normal behavior. However, this observation might be accompanied by other abnormalities that, taken together, assist your vet in choosing appropriate diagnostics, reaching a diagnosis, and suggesting treatment options.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

CONTACT US

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Sending