Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Extending or Stretching Out Neck

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 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.
  • If the behavior seems extreme, or the horse seems to be in distress.

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

  • If the horse seems to be moving freely, and has a normal appetite and attitude.
  • If the behavior continues with no explanation.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Stretching (extending) the neck forward is often seen in horses with pain or injury in the mouth, throat, jaw, or neck. In rare cases, horses experiencing certain types of abdominal pain (colic) or back pain may show this behavior.

Horses with choke (esophageal obstruction) commonly engage in this posture. When accompanied by mouth distorting postures (twisting), neck stretching can be a sign of a foreign body stuck in the throat, back of the mouth, or pharynx. It is also a common sign of dental problems.

WHAT TO DO

Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to rectal temperature, heart rate, and the horse’s attitude and appetite. Offer a handful of palatable feed to assess the horse’s ability to chew and swallow.

Assess and feel the face, throat and neck for swelling, drainage or areas of pain. If you feel confident doing so and are experienced, try to wash the mouth out and assess it with a headlight. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet evaluates the horse’s general health, then checks the oral cavity (mouth) for foreign material or evidence of dental problems. A diagnosis might also require a careful examination of the jaw, throat and neck.

Other diagnostics (like endoscopy or radiography) might be needed to identify the cause of this behavior.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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