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


Lump, Bump, Growth in Throat Area, Behind Jaw or Under Ear


Healthy horses have a variety of normal anatomic lumps and bumps that can be felt in and around the throat-latch area, behind the jaw. In the normal horse, the larynx, thyroid gland, salivary glands and lymph nodes all feel like firm bumps in this area.

These structures can enlarge or change shape in both health and disease and only your vet can really define what is normal. Enlargement of the thyroid gland is common ( in human medicine this is called goiter) but usually in horses is not a serious concern. Benign thyroid enlargement is common in older horses.

Beyond this, there is also a variety of abnormal lumps and bumps that can develop in this area. Under the surface of the skin, a firm bump could be a hematoma, abscess, cyst, foreign body reaction, or tumor. On the skin surface, possibilities might include sarcoid or other skin tumor. Near the base of the ear can occur a strange growth called a dentigerous cyst, that drains pus-like fluid.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
    • If the swelling is large, painful or growing rapidly.
    • 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 Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you consider this a chronic and relatively mild problem that is not changing rapidly.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
    • If the swelling is mild or moderate, and not increasing rapidly.

your role


What To Do

Become familiar with how your horse feels in this area when in health, so you can discern a difference when you suspect they have sustained an injury or developed illness. When in doubt, assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Compare left to right sides of their neck and throat carefully, take photos, and call your vet to discuss your findings and concerns.

What Not To Do

Do not ever attempt to lance, open or drain any swelling unless advised to do so by your vet.

your vet's role

Your vet may advise you to take a "wait and see" approach or suggest that they examine your horse. Vets consider and examine the normal structures in the region to determine whether lumps and bumps involve them. In cases where this is not clear from examination, other diagnostics are used.

Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this?
  • When did you last think your horse seemed normal?
  • Has the horse been vaccinated recently?
  • Where, exactly, is it located? Can you provide a photo?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • 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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP