15 Reasons Why Horses Foam At The Mouth
Anyone who has seen an equine competition has seen a white foamy substance around the lips and bit of horses. This is most commonly seen in dressage horses, but can also be seen in racehorses, jumpers, reiners, and other active disciplines. No, these horses do not have rabies. There are many explanations for why a horse is drooling, and we will look at some of these reasons in this article. To help you manage and understand this, a good reference book like “Equine Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians and Equine Scientists” is very beneficial.
Behavioral Reasons for Foaming at the Mouth
Relaxation: When horses are relaxed, they lick and chew, an action which produces saliva. When their muscles are all working together and their movements are connected through their body, they produce a foamy saliva. Tools like the Horsemen’s Pride Jolly Ball can help with relaxation and easing stress.
Stress: On the other hand, some horses can salivate more when they are stressed, as a result of hormones from the flight response. Using a horse-calming supplement such as “Oralx Calm and Cool Paste” can help manage stress. If your horse is drooling only during riding, it is important to look at other signs to determine if your horse is drooling from stress or relaxation.
Physical Reasons for Foaming at the Mouth
Suppleness: When a horse is relaxed and supple, moving actively with its whole body, its brain produces a chemical in the mouth called latherin which increases salivation.
Bit Material: Certain materials, such as copper or apple-flavored rubber, cause horses to salivate more. A “Happy Mouth Double Jointed Loose Ring Snaffle Bit” is one option. But the drooling is not a reaction to discomfort from the bit itself, just to the bit’s material.
Foreign Body Without a Passport: There may be a strange object in your horse’s mouth, gums, or tongue. Salivating is the body’s response to try to force that foreign body out. Regularly using a horse mouth inspection tool, like the “DEXSUR Horse Equine Dental Kit“, can help prevent this.
Disclaimer: If you’re not comfortable performing dental maintenance on your horse, or if you’re uncertain about the process, it’s highly recommended to seek the help of a trained professional such as a veterinarian or an equine dentist. Horse dental care can be a complex task and doing it improperly can lead to serious health issues for your horse. Watching instructional videos on how to use equine dental kits can also be helpful to get a sense of the scope of the task.
Teething: If your horse is between 2 ½ and 3 ½ years old, he may be drooling because he is teething! Just like human babies drool and mouth things more, young horses may have more foamy and drooly mouths during this phase of their lives.
Clover: If your horse is drooling all the time and has access to pasture, check to make sure he is not eating clover. A particular fungus called Rhizoctonia grows on clover, and while it is not toxic, it causes them to slobber nonstop.
Oral Ulcers: Various diseases cause ulcers to form in the horse’s mouth. These ulcers can be the result of viral vesticular stomatitis, gum diseases, and choke. If your horse all of a sudden starts to drool all the time, it may be a good idea to get a vet to check his mouth. A product like “UlcerGard (omeprazole) Oral Paste Syringe” can help manage oral ulcers.
Eating And Drinking: Sometimes something as simple as eating or drinking can cause your horse to drool more. This simply means that the first step of digestion is working!
Choke: If your horse has choke, that means that a foreign body has gotten stuck in its throat. Since horse’s digestive tracts only work in one direction, they can’t gag or throw up to dislodge the foreign body. The body reacts by producing extra saliva.
Mouth Injury or Disease: The horse’s mouth is one of the quickest healing parts of the body. This is the case because of repairing enzymes that are present in saliva. If the body senses that there is an injury, or that a disease is affecting the mouth, it sends signals to the salivary glands to produce extra saliva. If your horse is suddenly salivating more than usual, try to check and see if there are signs of injury, pain, or disease in the mouth.
Vesticular Stomatitis: This disease causes the stomach to produce too much acid, leading to an interruption in the entire digestive process. This can lead to mouth ulcers, which can cause your horse to salivate more than usual.
Bacteria: Certain bacteria that are present in the horse’s food can cause a reaction in the mouth. This reaction makes the horse drool and salivate more. If your horse is salivating more all of a sudden, consider if there is something in new pasture or feed that may be causing this response.
Tongue Deformities: If there are any deformities in the horse’s tongue, they can interfere with regular saliva production. A deformed tongue can also irritate parts of the horse’s mouth, and as we have seen before, the mouth deals with irritation by producing more saliva.
Musculoskeletal Deformities: If the horse has deformities in the muscles and/or bones in its face, these can also stimulate excessive saliva production in the horse’s mouth. As with tongue deformities, if these are deformities resulting from long-term injuries or the horse was born with them, it is most likely not a big problem. Check with your vet to make sure that your horse’s quality of life is not overly affected by these deformities.
Rabies: The scariest option on this list for foaming at the mouth is rabies. If your horses have been exposed to foxes, bats, skunks, coyotes,
What Should I Do if My Horse Is Foaming at the Mouth?
The first thing to ask yourself is if the drooling has a particular circumstance associated with it. Is it just when you ride him? If so, pay attention to his bit, and overall way of carrying himself. If he is carrying a lot of tension in his body and seems uncomfortable, he may be drooling from discomfort. On the other hand, if he is relaxed and seems comfortable in his work, you are riding him well! Did you recently switch foods? Is there a change in seasons and new plants growing in the pasture? Any of these reasons may be a cause for your horse to drool chronically. If the drooling came on suddenly, check for signs of distress, injury, or illness. A call to a vet can shed some light on whether or not dental work or a physical exam is necessary to address the issue.
Drooling in horses is quite different from drooling in dogs or other animals. It has a number of physiological and psychological causes, and determining the exact cause can take a bit of detective work. But the reward of knowing why your horse does what he does will be worth it!
Is your horse prone to foaming at the mouth during rides? Feel free to join the discussion in the comments section below. We’d love to hear any tried and tested tips you may have found effective.