Foaming at the mouth is common to many horses. They foam for a variety of reasons. Some are life-threatening while others are not. If your horse foams at the mouth, what’s the implication? Is it at risk of any serious health problems?
In this article, you will find out some of the major reasons why horses foam at the mouth. You will learn about the implications of such an act. You will also learn preventive and corrective measures you can take to address this problem.
Why Do Horses Foam At The Mouth?
Horses foam for a wide range of reasons. Here is a list of some of the common causes of equine foaming at the mouth:
1. Physical Exertion
After engaging in physical exercise, it is normal that your horse foams at the mouth. Don’t panic if it does. Ideally, a healthy horse foams after a workout. It is proof that it is in good condition. It also shows that the horse was ridden properly and feels relaxed after the workout.
But, if the horse has a bad posture or is tense, the condition will inhibit the salivary duct. Such a horse can’t produce saliva, leading to a dry mouth.
2. Dental Problem
Dental issues may also lead to a foaming mouth. Horses always grow teeth. As they grow, they are ground down. Incorrect grounding may give the teeth sharp edges. This condition may trigger a series of dental problems.
For instance, horses lose 16 baby teeth while they are between 2 ½ and 3 ½ years old. Adults get rid of about 20 permanent teeth too. If they have some unremoved milk teeth for a long time, these will become sharp or loose over time. Horses are not usually comfortable when dealing with such teeth; it causes them a lot of pain.
Excessive or bloody saliva is a sign of issues with the gums. They are either infected or ulcerated. Your vet is in the best position to determine the actual cause of the problem.
But, some known causes of oral ulceration are:
- Phenylbutazone toxicity: Phenylbutazone is an effective treatment for pain and inflammation after injuries. But, the horse may react negatively to it. The negative reaction can cause ulcers in the mouth.
- Blister beetle toxicosis: This is otherwise known as cantharidin toxicosis. It occurs when horses eat products or alfalfa hay that are contaminated with beetles. Blister beetles contain cantharidin. They also secrete this chemical substance that is harmful to horses. Once a horse ingests it, it may develop oral ulcerations and inflammation.
- Oral foreign bodies: Sometimes, a foreign object may get stuck in the horse’s mouth. This may be grass awns, wood or metal. The initial symptoms are listlessness and lack of appetite. Over time, anorexia and swelling may surface. These are likely causes of oral ulcers.
- Periodontal disease: This disease ranks among the most painful oral ailments for a horse. It is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Periodontal disease is so harmful that it can affect the canine teeth, incisors, and cheek teeth. The pain may cause the horse to drool excessively. Veterinary news is an online source of information dedicated to animals. They say “Up to 34 percent of horses of all ages experience some level of perio-dontal disease, but up to 60 percent of horses 13 years of age and older suffer from severe periodontal disease.”
- Vesicular stomatitis: This is a serious health condition caused by rhabdovirus. An infected horse will be reluctant to eat and will drool. The ulcerated tissues will also produce a necrotic breath. Rise in temperature is another issue with such horses. They also seem to be depressed too. In some cases, vesicular stomatitis may become systemic. When they do, the horse will have wounds in some parts of its body. The coronary band and udder are mostly affected by the ulcer. The deteriorating health condition may make the animal lame.
Your horse may also produce foamy saliva while eating or immediately after. Horses need the enzymes in saliva to break down their food. The amount of saliva needed depends on how difficult it is to break the food down.
Carrots and sugar are some of the foods that need excess salivation. This helps them produce the number of enzymes needed for breaking the food down.
Rabies is another factor that can trigger foaming at the mouth. Rabid horses don’t only foam at the mouth, they are also very aggressive. Sometimes, they may make strange noises and seem restless. Horses dealing with this problem may bite or buck.
Some common causes of rabies in horses include being scratched or bitten by a raccoon or a rabid dog. Attacks by a fox, skunk, or bat may also trigger this condition.
Once an infected horse shows the symptoms of rabies, it is very close to death. You must act swiftly to prevent such an unfortunate incident.
Besides excessive drooling, horses affected by rhabdovirus suffer from irritability and anxiety. They are also very sensitive to touch while displaying a lack of coordination. They show a host of other odd behaviors too.
5. Chemical or mechanical irritation
This irritation may occur when a horse grazes on some plants that have spines or sharp awns. Consuming those with burs can cause this too. The result is usually drooling or oral ulcers. The following are some of the plants that can trigger mechanical irritation:
- Foxtail barley
- Raspberry canes
- Long-spined sandbur
Marsh marigolds and buttercups have a reputation for causing chemical irritation.
6. Food Poisoning
If the horse develops this problem in the fall or spring, slaframine poisoning may be the cause. During these seasons, it is easier for clovers to multiply in pastures. The wet and cool condition also supports the development of Rhizoctonia Leguminicola. This is otherwise called black patch. This fungus can affect both stored dry hay and pasture for months. It has a long lifespan, enough for it to cause damage to horses that consume it.
Foaming at the mouth may be a sign of something more serious such as food poisoning. Once a horse consumes some toxic plants or deadly chemicals, it foams at the mouth. Red clover is one of the most common plant toxicities that may trigger this reaction. This occurs when a horse consumes a red clover plant that is already infected with Rhizoctonia leguminicola. This is also known as Black Patch Disease. This ailment causes excessive foaming in horses. This is an early sign of the disease. If your horse consumes this deadly plant, only a timely reaction can save it.
Other symptoms of food poisoning, aside from foaming are sweating and feeling feverish. The horse may also have a cough.
7. Jaw out of Alignment
This is scientifically referred to as Malocclusion. It occurs when the lower and upper jaws are not properly aligned. Since the lower and upper teeth don’t fit together well, it may result in a misaligned bite. Other symptoms include foaming at the mouth and difficulty while eating. The horse may also suffer from malnutrition or weight loss.
Are There Ways To Prevent Your Horse From Foaming At The Mouth?
In most cases, foaming at the mouth is preventable. With the right approach, you can give your horse a great immunity to this problem. Some common preventive measures you can adopt are:
· Immunize the Animal
Proper immunization is crucial to protecting your horse from issues that may cause foaming at the mouth. There is a possibility that the horse may be bitten by a rabies carrier. So, giving it an anti-rabies injection is a smart move. This gives it immunity against the effect of such a dangerous attack. Don’t wait until something bad happens before taking action. Contact your veterinarian in advance and have your animal immunized.
· Monitor their Diet
What do you feed your equine? How frequent does it eat? Pay attention to the diet. Overfeeding and eating the wrong type of food may cause problems for your horse. So, feed your horse with foods that are low in soluble carbohydrates.
Feed your horse with cereal grains. They provide them with more energy than they can get from high-fiber feeds. Horses prefer oats to other grain types. They do well with corn too. Wheat, white beans, kidney beans, and lentils should be removed from their diet. This will help to prevent dental problems and ulcers. Forages that contain high fiber are also important. That is because they contribute more to the horse’s health. Make such forages the larger portion of your horse’s diet.
Foods rich in forages provide horses with what the microbes in their large intestine need for fermentation. This will boost their gut health and prevent colic.
Hay is considered the best meal for horses, next to grass. When purchasing hay, go for the green one. Greener hay is better and healthier than any other type. Make sure it is mold-free to prevent respiratory problems and other health concerns.
If you can afford it, buy alfalfa hay for the horse. It contains higher protein than grass and is healthier.
Steer clear of soluble carbohydrates. Don’t include sugars such as glucose and fructans in your horse’s meal. Fructose and sucrose should be eliminated as well because they can be harmful.
· Periodic Checking is a Must
Don’t wait until your horse breaks down before you give it medical attention. You can book appointments with your vet and equine dentist at regular intervals. While the vet takes a look at the horse’s general health, the dentist focuses on dental health. Both professionals will help you to notice health risks before they get out of hand.
Recommended Treatment For Horse Foaming At The Mouth
Foaming at the mouth is sometimes not a life-threatening condition. But, you should attend to the problem as soon as you can.
Here are some practical ways to treat this problem:
· Contact your Vet
This is the first step you must take once you notice excessive foaming at the mouth from your horse. The experienced vet can easily identify the primary cause of the problem. This is very important since the treatment option you adopt depends on the cause. To identify the problem, the vet may carry out a series of tests you can’t handle. That may be the key to identifying the problem and getting your horse back in shape and good health. Some causes are a bit comprehensive to pinpoint. Apart from this, visiting the vet is necessary for rabies attacks, food poisoning, and other known causes. The earlier you make the move, the better chances you have at helping your horse overcome this menace.
· Change the Feed
Changing the feed is a great move if the problem is caused by food poisoning. Replace the feed with a healthy one to compliment the vet’s efforts. If the horse is overweight, pay attention to what you feed it as well. This includes how much grazing it does and the quantity of food you allow it to eat.
· Quarantine the Animal
Separating the affected animal from the herd is also recommended. But, before you take that step, let it go for blood testing to find out the problem. Once vesicular stomatitis is confirmed, the other animals are protected from infection by quarantining the diseased animal.
· Contact your Equine Dentist
If dental problems cause foaming at the mouth, contact your equine dentist as soon as you can. The professional will be in a better position to handle the problem than a general vet. The timely intervention may prevent the problem from getting out of hand.
A wide range of factors can trigger this problem. While some are very obvious, others are not. This makes it imperative that you understand the problem and know the best way to handle it.