Can Horses Vomit? How Does This Affect Horse Care?

Can Horses Vomit

Can horses vomit you ask? It’s extremely important for you to know how your horse’s digestive system works. What it can and can’t do and why. Here we are going to go through why horses can’t vomit and what to do when they have consumed too much or even the wrong type of food.

Horses can’t vomit, they have a one-way entry path into their stomach. They have a cut-off valve and an angled stomach track to ensure they don’t vomit. A horse’s stomach is positioned deep within the rib cage, so abdominal muscles can’t easily squeeze it. A horse doesn’t naturally need to vomit.

Horses normally have no natural need to vomit because they are very picky about what they eat. Normally toxic vegetation is not very palatable for them and even when they do eat a few toxic plants they will manage to digest them without it turning fatal.

However, it’s still important to make sure that the chance of eating toxic plants is limited. You can learn more about toxic plants in this article.

Other reasons why horses are designed not to vomit is because the head and neck of horses are low down to the ground when they are grazing compared to the height of their stomachs. So they need to fight against gravity to make sure they retain their food.

One more big reason why horses can’t vomit is that when they are running their stomachs are pushed and pressured in a way that would normally cause a mammal to vomit but because the horse naturally needs to run to survive in the wild, it doesn’t vomit.

In rare cases, the stomach of the horse may be under so much pressure with food and gas that it breaks the seal of the cut-off valve and allows some of the food to go back up through the throat and mouth BUT in most cases, this will mean that the stomach was under so much pressure that it has most certainly ruptured and after a short moment of relief for the horse it normally dies.

White Horse Eating

Reasons Why Horses Don’t Vomit

  1. Their heads and necks are always lower than their stomachs while grazing and they need to fight gravity to keep their food inside.
  2. They need to retain their food while fleeing from danger. Galloping puts a lot of pressure on the stomach that would normally cause other mammals to vomit but horses always need to be able to flee from danger at any moment and vomiting would impede this survival skill.
  3. Naturally, they don’t need to vomit. Horses are quite particular about what they eat, they don’t like the taste of most toxic plants and even when they do eat a small amount of toxic plants they can usually handle it.
  4. Access to huge quantities of concentrated feed is not natural. Horses, like all lifeforms, are designed for the natural world and so when humans create unnatural circumstances like stockpiling concentrated feed, it conflicts with nature. Horses in nature mostly graze on low energy forage like grass and even though they can graze like this for 16 hours per day, it’s normally never too much to handle.

If Your Horse APPEARS to be Vomiting

If your horse appears to be vomiting or foaming/drooling at the mouth, it may be choking on its feed. A horse choking won’t look the same as a person choking, and it’s important that if you see these signs of choking, that you remove any feed and call your vet.

While your vet is on their way, you can feel the horse’s neck gently to see if there is any swelling to inform the vet upon their arrival.

The vet will assess the situation and try to get rid of any obstruction in the throat of the horse. If they feel they need to. Sometimes they will decide that it may just be a small obstruction that can clear up by itself. I would rather be on the safe side and call the vet to evaluate before waiting to see if it passes. At least ask the vet telephonically what they think.

If you can, video call your vet so that they can see and hear the horse to assess them. If you can’t video call, they can at least listen to this type of problem over a voice call to help them assess the situation.

Never Try to Induce Vomiting In a Horse

Because of how the horse’s body is designed not to vomit, you should NEVER try to induce vomiting in a horse. You will only cause major stomach spasms which could lead to death. Rather call your vet immediately if your horse has eaten too much or if it’s eaten anything toxic.

How Not Vomiting Affects Your Horse

The most obvious cause for concern here is that if your horse consumes too much feed like grain and other concentrated feeds, it may cause the stomach to rupture and result in death.

Another cause for concern is that if you see that your horse has eaten something toxic, even an excessive amount of toxic plants, there is no way of expelling those toxins straight back out of the mouth. To learn more about toxic plants, have a look at this article.

Horse Eating Hay

Procedure To Follow If Your Horse Ate Too Much Feed

  1. Separate your horse from any food if there is any left around.
  2. Call a veterinarian immediately and let them know that your horse ate too much feed.
  3. While your vet is on their way to you and the horse, check how much and what type of feed they ate as best you can. Make a note of it.
  4. Have fresh water available for your horse to drink.
  5. Check around the ground to see if they have recently discharged any feces and how much.
  6. Make sure that the horse’s hooves are cooled down to prevent inflammation. You can use cold water on rags with ice inside or if there is anybody of water available for the horse to stand in that can work as well. You can use buckets with ice and water as well. There are even hoof boots that are made for holding ice. Just avoid direct contact of the ice on the horse’s body to avoid frostbite.

What Will The Veterinarian Do For The Horse?

Once the vet arrives, they will assess the horse themselves and ask you if you know what the horse consumed and how much. After assessing the horse, they might do one or more of the following:

  • Gastric lavage to flush the horse’s digestive system
  • Activated charcoal to help absorb toxins in your horse’s digestive system
  • Dosing with mineral oil or laxatives to help pass the extra feed
  • They may administer anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Administration of medical fluids

Up to 10% of horses may need surgical treatment but in most cases, the horse can be treated medicinally as per the above medical procedures.

Horse Veterinarian

Monitoring Your Horse After Treatment

Your vet may recommend that you keep the hooves and lower limbs of the horse cooled for 24 to 48 hours. One of the easier ways to do this will be with the use of hoof boots that are made for holding ice like the Tough 1 Ice Boot. Make sure to avoid direct contact between the ice and the horse’s body to avoid frostbite.

Monitor the digital pulse and temperature of your horse’s hooves. If the pulse or temperature increases, call your vet and give them the figures. You can also check for signs of laminitis such as lameness, soreness, and standing in an unusual way. If your horse is developing or experiencing laminitis, it may stand with the front feet stretched out in front to take the pressure off the toes and the hind feet positioned under them to support the weight that their front feet can’t.

Symptoms of Eating Too Much Feed

  • Spasmodic Colic – A build-up of gas in the colon and is very painful for the horse.
  • Impaction Colic – Similar to constipation is caused by dehydration, consuming too much sand and dirt, or rich, dense food
  • Diarrhea – Defined as loose stools, or excessive and overly frequent defecation.
  • Laminitis – This is an inflammation of the laminae of the foot.

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