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


Drainage from Under or Behind Jaw


Drainage from under the jaw can result from disease processes such as dental infections and infected puncture wounds. This observation is also commonly associated with Strangles, a highly contagious disease caused by Streptococcus equi.

Strangles causes nasal discharge and swellings (abscesses) in the lymph nodes under the jaw that may eventually burst and exude a thick yellow pus. Other signs of strangles include a fever, depression, reduced appetite, and a fever.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the area seems painful to the touch.
    • 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 Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
    • If the condition does not seem to be causing pain or other problem.

your role


What To Do

If you suspect your horse has Strangles, immediately implement quarantine protocols and call your vet. It is always safest to assume that a horse with drainage here has Strangles. Your vet can perform an examination and culture which may confirm the diagnosis. Meanwhile, it is advisable to err on the cautious side. If your horse does not has these signs but has drainage under the jaw, it still is wise to involve your vet. The risk of Strangles infection of your premises and your other horses is serious.

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Wear gloves, and be careful of spreading infection to other horses. Pay attention to the color of the discharge, presence of swelling around or behind the jaw, the presence of odor, and rectal temperature, attitude and appetite.

What Not To Do

Do not allow your horse in contact with your other horses. Even if they have already been in contact, it is best to quarantine them now and begin that protocol.

your vet's role

Your vet's role is to first determine the likelihood of Strangles. If Strangles is the presumed diagnosis,they may confirm that using culture. The vet may attempt to drain the abscess, and contain and dispose of the pus. They will help you manage this horse's illness while trying to implement measures to reduce the risk of infection of other horses.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Have you had other horses on the property that are or have been ill?
  • Has your horse been in contact with others that have been ill?
  • Is there significant swelling around your horse's jaw and throat?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • What is the horse's vaccination status?
  • What is the horse's rectal temperature?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

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

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP