Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Swelling of Lip, Muzzle or Nose

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

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

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
  • 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.

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

  • If the problem is very mild and does not seem to be causing much harm to the horse.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Swelling of this area is fairly common, as it is frequently traumatized. It is one of the most common locations for snake bite. Infectious diseases like Vesicular Stomatitis also affect the area. Contact irritation or allergy can be seen here to various feeds. Feed material that becomes embedded in the lips can cause abscess formation, and swelling of the lip or muzzle. A gray horse may have melanoma in the corner of the mouth and on the lips. This appears as a hard, non-painful thickening of the lips.

This is a sensitive area that can be difficult to examine, particularly when it is severely inflamed. Luckily, once the primary disease process is identified and treated, the area usually heals rapidly thanks to an excellent blood supply.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to rectal temperature, heart rate and general attitude and appetite. Look for other areas of swelling. Put on gloves and assess the area, gently feeling for foreign material and areas of accentuated pain. Gently lift the lip and inspect its inside surface for wounds or foreign material.

Contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet assesses this area using careful examination, trying to determine a cause for the swelling. They determine body-wide health through physical examination. In rare cases, I have used ultrasound to visualize a thorn or porcupine quill embedded deep in the tissues of the muzzle.

POSSIBLE TREATMENTS or TherapiesTo Lessen or Resolve the Sign

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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