Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Generalized Swelling of Throat Behind Jaw

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

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

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If there is severe swelling and your horse is making respiratory noise or seems to be having difficulty breathing.
  • 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 Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you consider this a chronic and relatively mild problem that is not changing rapidly.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Generalized swelling of the throat area (not a hard, well-defined lump) can result from a wide variety of disease processes that relate to the structures that reside there, including the salivary glands, lymph nodes, the guttural pouches, the pharynx and larynx. Problems with any of these structures can cause swelling in this area.

Importantly, severe swelling in this area can be associated with Strangles (horse distemper), a highly contagious bacterial respiratory disease. Strangles usually (but not always) also causes nasal discharge, cough and swellings (abscesses) in the lymph nodes under the jaw. These may eventually burst and exude a thick yellow pus. Other signs of Strangles usually include fever, depression, and poor appetite.

WHAT TO DO

Given that Strangles is highly contagious, your first priority is to isolate or quarantine your horse until your vet can be sure this is not the diagnosis.

Evaluate your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet uses history, physical examination, and other diagnostics to determine the nature of the swelling.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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