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


Dropping Grain or Feed Abnormally when Eating


Grain spilling can be caused by behavioral issues, mouth pain, or other causes. A bit of spilling may be considered normal for some horses. Some horses become anxious or impatient when they eat their grain, scattering and spilling it.

Some horses spill feeds that they are not accustomed to eating, or that they dislike. Spilling grain can rarely relate to neurologic or neuromuscular diseases, in which coordinated lip or chewing movements are impossible. Horses that are ill from other causes may gingerly eat their grain, only to drop it out of their mouths.

Usually, however, this problem is a classic sign of dental overgrowths or other dental or oral condition.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
    • 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 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.

your role


What To Do

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) paying particular attention to heart rate and rectal temperature and general attitude. In all cases, your horse should have a normal appetite and attitude. Assess your horse's mouth (wear gloves) looking for any other abnormalities.

Wash out the horse's mouth and look for dental points or ulcers in your horse's cheek or tongue and contact your vet to discuss your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet will seek to rule out dental or oral conditions that might be causing this sign, but will also consider the horse's overall health and neurologic function.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • When was your horse's last dental examination?
  • What were the findings?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Has the horse had any dental or mouth issues that you are aware of?
  • What is the horse's dental health history?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Have you added anything to your horse's grain lately, such as a supplement?
  • Do you notice odor in the mouth?
  • Is the horse making strange mouth, lip or tongue gestures?
  • Have you changed your horse's grain lately?
  • Did you attempt to look in the horse's mouth?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • What did you see when you looked in the horse's mouth?
  • Is your horse bracing against the bit or seem irritated by a bit in their mouth?

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
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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
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further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP