Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Foul Odor from Mouth or Face, Bad Breath

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

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

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

  • If the horse seems to be having difficulty eating, in addition to showing this sign.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • 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.

Horses with problems involving their mouths often have bad breath or a foul odor emanating from their head. Wounds in the mouth, periodontal disease and feed pockets, abscessed teeth, and ulcers in the cheek from dental overgrowth or retained caps all can result in a variety of pungent and unpleasant odors.

Sour breath is also commonly associated with intestinal obstructions that may cause signs of abdominal pain (colic). This is due to the buildup of excretory products that normally pass out through the equine digestive tract. The same applies to horses experiencing kidney failure. In that case, buildup of toxins normally excreted in the urine causes mouth odor.

If you notice an unusual odor coming from your horse’s mouth or face, assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), look for other signs of illness or disease, and assess their mouth (wear gloves). Contact your vet to discuss your findings and concerns.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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