Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Spasm or Tensing of Neck Muscle

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 you think that the horse has an esophageal obstruction (choke),
  • If the foal has milk run out its nostrils while nursing.

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

  • If this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.
  • If this is the only sign and the horse seems normal otherwise.

Spasms of the strap muscles low on the neck is a classic finding in horses that are experiencing esophageal obstruction (choke), particularly when it occurs in conjunction with coughing, extension of the neck, and when feed material is coming out of a horse’s nostrils.

These spasms may also be associated with pain or difficulty swallowing, and it may sometimes occur when a vet is passing a naso-gastric tube for purposes of diagnosing or treating a problem. Horses that crib and “wind suck” flex the muscles of the neck during wind sucking. The muscles become overdeveloped in horses that do this frequently.

WHAT TO DO

Evaluate your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to whether they may be experiencing the other signs associated with choke. Contact your vet with findings and concerns.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet may want to pass a nasogastric tube to ensure that nothing is blocking the horse’s esophagus (ie they do not have “choke”).

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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