Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Eating Slowly, Taking Long Time to Finish a Meal

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 the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Horses that take a long time to consume their feed may have dental or oral pain, or pain swallowing. Their appetite may be poor because of an underlying condition, or they may simply not like the feed. Slow eating is a more common observation in older horses.

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to body condition, heart rate, gum color and general demeanor. Watch carefully for a few minutes after you feed them.

Try to differentiate between a mere feed dislike, versus other problems. Try different feeds. Are they picking up their feed and trying to chew but can’t? Are they simply playing with their feed? Do they chew but are having difficulty swallowing? Are they showing any signs of abdominal pain (colic)? Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

The veterinary exam for this sort of observation begins with a very thorough history and physical exam. An important part of this is a very careful dental exam. If the basics are ruled out, then blood work can provide clues to underlying disease.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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