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


Eating Slowly, Taking Long Time to Finish a Meal


Horses that take a long time to consume their feed may have dental or oral pain, or pain swallowing. Their appetite may be poor because of an underlying illness, or they may simply not like the feed. Slow eating is a more common observation in older horses because of inability to chew properly.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the horse seems to be having difficulty eating, in addition to showing this sign.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to body condition, heart rate, gum color and general demeanor. Watch carefully for a few minutes after you feed them.

Try to differentiate between a mere feed dislike, versus other problems. Try different feeds. Are they picking up their feed and trying to chew but can't? Are they simply playing with their feed? Do they chew but are having difficulty swallowing? Are they showing any signs of abdominal pain (colic)? Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

Until vet evaluation, be sure to separate a slow-eater so that they can finish a full meal without having to compete with others in a herd.

What Not To Do

Do not feed a "slow-eater" in a herd of horses. They will be out-competed and will lose weight.

your vet's role

The veterinary exam for this sort of observation begins with a very thorough history and physical exam. An important part of this is a very careful dental exam. If the basics are ruled out, then blood work can provide clues to underlying disease.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is the horse also spilling or dropping feed, or quidding?
  • Is there a particular feed your horse is eating more slowly?
  • Is the horse attempting to eat?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Is the horse simply not interested in the feed?
  • How is the horse's weight or body condition score (BCS)?
  • Does the horse appear to be losing weight?
  • 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

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP