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Equine Health Resource

Foreign Body, Plant Awns Stuck in Mouth, Lips, Tongue or Gums

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

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

    You probably noticed your horse salivating or having difficulty eating, which prompted you to look in the mouth. You noticed sharp plant seed heads embedded in the gums, lips or tongue.

    This is a common problem that is usually caused by horses eating hay containing mature seed heads. Sharp, hardened seed heads and spines become embedded in the soft tissues of the mouth, causing excessive salivation or difficulty eating. These foreign bodies can also cause ulcers or abscesses that result in swelling and more pain.

    Common plants that can cause this problem include mature Fox Tail and Squirrel Tail grasses, and mature wheat.


    With good technique and light, you may be able to rinse away and pick out much of the material yourself. If the signs do not improve or the problem seems severe, contact your vet.


    Your vet can perform a more thorough examination of the mouth and can more completely remove any foreign material. Talk to your vet about preventing further problems, which may include changing hay or forage source.

    What Not To Do

    Do not feed your horse hay containing a significant amount of mature hard and sharp seed head, or Fox Tail or other sharp-awned plant.

    Do not try to remove the material unless you are confident you can safely do so.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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