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Equine Health Resource

Swollen Tongue

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

    It is often very hard to determine whether a horse has a swollen tongue, unless it is so swollen that a horse allows it to protrude out of the mouth. In this case, the swelling may increase simply due to exposure to the elements.

    A swollen tongue can result from infection, inflammation or injury. This can also be seen in horses with a neurologic dysfunction and exposure damage to the tongue, and horses in shock as they succumb to an underlying disease. Several times, I have seen a severe, apparent allergic or contact reaction to a common commercial deworming paste (ivermectin and praziquantel).

    If the swelling is a result of trauma, the good news is that injuries to the mouth generally heal very quickly.


    Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and their mouth (wear gloves). Contact your vet with your findings and concerns. Take a photo and send it to your vet for discussion.


    Your vet considers whether this is a primary injury (traumatic for instance) or whether there is an underlying condition that led to the swollen tongue (tongue paralysis causing exposure to the elements and secondary swelling). This requires careful general physical examination as well as assessment of the tongue and its function.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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