Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Sores or Blisters on Mouth, Lips, Tongue, or Gums

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

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

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

Sores inside the mouth develop when the lining membrane is damaged, exposing the underlying tissue. This can result from traumatic injury. Wounds or sores in the corners of the mouth or on the tongue can be caused by a poorly fitting or functioning bit or from trauma from excessive force applied to the bit.

Sores can also be caused by a variety of disease processes, including ingestion of toxins (from plants and other sources) that damage the lining cells. Some viral diseases, including EHV-1 and Vesicular Stomatitis (VS), can also cause oral ulcers. NSAID (bute) toxicity will sometimes cause oral ulcers.

A common cause of sores within the mouth is ulceration around seed heads from hay, which become embedded in the gums and cause ulcers to develop.

Summer Sores can occur around the corners of the mouth. More rarely, different skin conditions like Equine Sarcoid and Squamous Cell Carcinoma occur here, at the junction of the oral mucous membranes and the skin of the lips.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to attitude and appetite. Seek veterinary assistance immediately if this sign is accompanied by depression or inappetence. You may assess your horse’s mouth (wear gloves), but keep in mind that this observation is classically associated with Vesicular Stomatitis, a contagious disease.

In geographic locations where Vesicular Stomatitis exists, isolate your horse from others until your vet rules out this condition as a diagnosis.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will examine your horse’s general health and mouth and, depending on their findings, recommend additional diagnostics or treatments.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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