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


Swollen Tongue


It is often very hard to determine whether a horse has a swollen tongue, unless it is so swollen that a horse allows it to protrude out of the mouth. In this case, the swelling may increase simply due to exposure to the elements.

A swollen tongue can result from infection, inflammation or injury. This can also be seen in horses with a neurologic dysfunction and exposure damage to the tongue, and horses in shock as they succumb to an underlying disease. Several times, I have seen a severe, apparent allergic or contact reaction to a common commercial deworming paste (ivermectin and praziquantel).

If the swelling is a result of trauma, the good news is that injuries to the mouth generally heal very quickly.

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You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and their mouth (wear gloves). Contact your vet with your findings and concerns. Take a photo and send it to your vet for discussion.

your vet's role

Your vet considers whether this is a primary injury (traumatic for instance) or whether there is an underlying condition that led to the swollen tongue (tongue paralysis causing exposure to the elements and secondary swelling). This requires careful general physical examination as well as assessment of the tongue and its function.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite otherwise?
  • Do you notice any other problems with the horse?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • When was your horse last de-wormed, and what was used?
  • Has the horse received any medications or new feeds or supplements?
  • Does the horse seem to be having difficulty eating or dropping feed?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP