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


Wound or Cut to Tongue


Tongue wounds are fairly common and are usually caused by one of several accidents:

1. A horse pulls back when tied with a bridle and bit, and the bit cuts the tongue.

2. A bridled horse gets loose and steps on the reins, and the bit cuts the tongue.

3. A horse takes an impact to the jaw (is kicked or falls) and bites their tongue (this can also be an indication of collapse from sleep deprivation or narcolepsy).

4. A horse cuts their tongue when eating a bale of hay. In this case, they got the lower jaw and tongue under a twine or loose wire, and pull back, lacerating the tongue.

5. I have also heard of a horse catching its jaw in a blanket strap and sustaining a similar injury.

Generally, tongue wounds are discovered due to bleeding from the mouth or difficulty eating.

The good news is that in most cases, horses do well with severely damaged or missing tongues. However, there is a short window of time in which your vet may be able to (or choose to) repair the tongue, depending on the type of laceration, so contact them immediately.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you wish to have the best functional and cosmetic outcome, no matter the cost.
    • If the horse seems particularly distressed by the problem.
    • If you are concerned by the size and severity of the wound.
    • If the wound occurred within the last 24 hours.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the wound occurred over 24 hours ago.

your role


What To Do

It is difficult to examine a wounded tongue in many horses. They tend to protect it. That said, you can try to visualize the wound and have a sense of how severe it is. Take a photo if possible. Perform the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) paying particular attention to whether the horse can eat, apparent pain level and the characteristics of the wound.

What Not To Do

Do not apply antibiotic products to the injury unless advised to do so by your vet. Do not engage in the scenarios described above unless you want to increase your chances of dealing with this type of injury.

your vet's role

Your vet examines the wound, it's location, severity, age and characteristics, and makes a determination of whether or not repair is possible. That will depend on many factors, including your budget.

Your vet may choose to either let the wound heal as an open wound, or attempt repair.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How long ago do you think this happened?
  • How aggressive do you want to be in treating this?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Do you notice odor in the mouth?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Can you send a photo?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP