What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Dead Mouse, Bird or other Animal in Water Trough


You check your horse's water trough and notice a dead animal floating in it. What should you do?

Drinking water can be contaminated by carcasses of dead birds or other animals. Botulism is the primary risk. Botulism is likely fatal if not caught very early and treated aggressively. For that reason, it is worth taking this seriously.

Drain the water trough and clean it with dilute bleach to fresh water 1:10. Rinse well (ensuring all bleach is removed) before refilling it with fresh water. Dispose of or bury the carcass away from your horses and other animals. Wear gloves when you handle the carcass.

Illness resulting from this situation is very rare. However, it is still a good idea to monitor the horse carefully for several days following the cleaning of the water tank.

  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • To discuss your equine's general health and management.

your role


What To Do

Wearing gloves, remove the dead animal from the trough. Drain and scrub the trough.

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to any signs of weakness or wobbliness (ataxia), or any abnormal behavior. Monitor attitude and appetite closely.

Call your vet immediately if you notice even a subtle problem, and tell them that you found a dead animal in the water trough.

What Not To Do

Do not ignore this problem. The potential risk of illness is small, but serious.

your vet's role

Your vet is unlikely to be involved unless you note a problem with an animal.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does the horse seem normal to you?
  • Do you think the horse's attitude and appetite are normal?
  • How did you clean the trough?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

Very Common
more diagnostics

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP