Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Choking or Gagging, Fluid (Clear, Frothy, or Green) Coming Out of Nostrils &/or Mouth

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

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

    You notice your horse gagging or having liquid or mucus coming out of the nostrils and/or mouth. This is usually a sign of a blockage in the esophagus (esophageal obstruction) or inability to swallow, especially when both nostrils are profusely discharging clear or frothy fluid and feed material. Saliva is being produced but cannot be swallowed and is being regurgitated. It is important to know that similar-appearing signs may also rarely be caused by other conditions.


    Remove all feed and water, keep your horse calm, and call your vet. Assess your horse’s general health with the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) if possible, paying attention to rectal temperature, the amount of coughing, and looking for swelling of neck, under jaw or throat, and noting the appearance of the nasal discharge. Share your findings and concerns with your vet. If transporting horse, be sure to allow it to drop its head and clear material from its airway.


    Your vet will determine the cause of this sign, starting with a careful history and physical examination. Other diagnostics that may be helpful include passage of a nasogastric tube and endoscopy, among others.

    What Not To Do

    Do not try to give anything orally or attempt to treat your horse in any way. If you do, you may cause your horse to breathe material into their lungs (aspirate).

    Do not force a coughing horse or one with nasal discharge to stand with its head elevated. It may cause inhalation of material into the lungs and predispose to pneumonia.

    Do not assume this problem will resolve on its own. Extensive esophageal damage can result if a horse is left choking for a significant period of time.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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