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Unexplained chronic choke

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  • Unexplained chronic choke

    I have a 15 year old PRE gelding that has inexplicably developed chronic choke syndrome. He had NEVER had any problems before, but started having choke episodes out of the blue about a month and a half ago.

    Vets cannot find ANYTHING wrong with this horse. His teeth are fine and were recently floated. He tested negative for EPM and Lyme, and a neuro exam showed no problems with any nerves in his face or neck. We even tested him for myasthenia gravis. All of the vets who have seen him are stumped.

    He has been scoped twice, including his gutteral pouches. The only thing apparent upon scoping is that he has some degree of paralysis in part of his esophagus--it obviously doesn't contract normally. But there are no signs of any damage or abnormality otherwise.

    He managed to choke again tonight on his "soup", and I am very worried about him. I know he cannot go on choking like this all the time. He has already had one bout of pneumonia.

    Has anyone else come across a similar case? I have found some references online to esophageal paralysis being caused by bots, but that seems like a longshot.

  • #2
    Isn't it quite common after a horse has one choke episode that they will have a higher likely hood of getting it again due to the damage/stretching caused by the initial episode?
    I really don't know as I have never dealt with choke. Just what I have heard!


    • #3
      Is there any acupuncturists around? If I had an unresponsive nerve, I'd try an acupuncturist, if you can afford it. It is a pretty safe therapy as far as that goes and you can see if it makes a difference. When western medicine hits it's limit alternative do-no-harm therapies are worth a shot ( if you can afford it).


      • #4
        Yep, once you have one choke you tend to have more.
        McDowell Racing Stables

        Home Away From Home


        • #5
          I knew a horse that choked several times. When they scoped her they found a wire across her esophagus... they nearly missed it, but a vet student was paying attention as they pulled the scope out.


          • #6
            We had one that choked frequently, even on soup. He was scoped, same issue, minor paralysis but the NEVER choked on hay, just grain (even if it was soupy).

            New Bolton was fabulous and after multiple dealings with them, this is how we handled The Choker.
            Disclaimer: I am not suggesting anyone else do this, this is what worked for our nutcase.

            Always fed him first and hung around to watch. As soon as he started acting "chokey", we gave him a hit of Banamine (or Ace, whatever you are most comfortable w/ and your vet advises). He would relax, it would resolve. We monitiored closely.

            EVERY time he choked, this is what we did (after extensive work-up from NB).

            Soon, no lie, we would "fake" inject him, as in, go through motions "pretend" IM or IV.

            Our hypothesis, he truly would choke on occasions, but then, when eating, he would get himself so uptight and stressed "aniticpating" the choke, his muscles contracting and he could not pass the food (even soup) correcting.

            When he "realized" -I get an injection, I calm down, choke goes away, he stopped getting stressed at feeding.

            Now- 2 years later- no choke. We monitor him very carefully, his food is still soupy. But life is much better. We call him our Mental Patient...
            Come to the dark side, we have cookies


            • #7
              Observation, observation, observation. Stand there and watch him eat. Does he chew evenly using both sides of his mouth? Does he tilt his head one way or the other when he eats, even the slightest tilt? Does he swallow what he chews? Does any fall out? Is there any drool while he eats, if so, is it clear or does it have food matter in it?? At what point in the eating cycle does the choke begin?

              I went through this with a mare new to me this summer. The first chokes were caused because she needed a dental. After that everything was fine for two months then it started again. She was scoped and labled "clean", no tumors, no strictures. Still, she was trying to choke. Ended up she had a molar with a crack and a piece of the tooth had splintered off on the inside of her gum line. Wish you could have seen the massive ulcer it created on her tongue. Through all of this the mare was perfect when being ridden, not kidding. No head tossing, no shaking. Go figure. Once the offending piece was removed she has been fine. My vet summarizes that horses will sometime pick up a rock (or something hard), bite down, cause a small fracture of the tooth which can turn into a separation.

              Good luck, I've been in your shoes and understand what a dread feeding time is.


              • #8
                I do a dexamethasone regimen for esophageal swelling after a choke episode. Before I figured that out, I had a horse that would choke multiple times. Once was probably from bolting his feed, the rest were probably from esophageal swelling (esophageal swelling=smaller passage way for food to pass through).
                'Like' my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Calla...946873?sk=wall


                • #9
                  I had a horse that was a chronic choker finally diagnosed at New Bolton with mega-esophagus after almost going to surgery for colic!
                  He would choke on "soup" and hay and after he was diagnosed I was told no hay, grass only and soft, soupy meals.
                  After about a year of this diet I tried giving him hay a little bit at a time. He never choked again after that but I was VERY careful with his feed and treats.

                  I think he had so many choke episodes along with the esophagus irregularities that he needed some time to heal the inflammation.
                  Good luck, it is a challenge and very nerve racking.
                  "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." --Ghandi


                  • #10
                    PM me I have a lot of experience with my now 9 year old Wb stallion and his chokes. I have a whole protocol that even my vet refers others to me for it. His first choke was as a 2 1/2 year old (he had 3 in 8 weeks and they had no idea why this youngster was choking)-Cornell could not help me so I used my own 'mother's' intuition and did/manage him myself. He's alive today b/c of me.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Pennywell Bay View Post

                      Soon, no lie, we would "fake" inject him, as in, go through motions "pretend" IM or IV.

                      Our hypothesis, he truly would choke on occasions, but then, when eating, he would get himself so uptight and stressed "aniticpating" the choke, his muscles contracting and he could not pass the food (even soup) correcting.

                      When he "realized" -I get an injection, I calm down, choke goes away, he stopped getting stressed at feeding.

                      Now- 2 years later- no choke. We monitor him very carefully, his food is still soupy. But life is much better. We call him our Mental Patient...
                      This sounds like my dad! He has esophageal spasms, which I swear only present when someone asks him if he "took his pill" and he realizes he didn't. They also stop as soon as he takes it. It's just ranitidine, Dad. It doesn't magically sooth as it floats past the spasm.
                      I'm not really at the top of my game today. I'm not even exactly sure what game I'm supposed to be playing, in fact... or where it's being held...

                      My horse's antics iamboyfriend.com