A Kick to the Throat

Q:My horse got kicked in the lower throat area (esophagus) a while ago. Lately his breathing has been vigorous, and he takes deep breaths. It has been scary for me because my farrier said it could be a symptom leading up to a heart attack. If you keep your hand under the lump left from the kick near his esophagus, you can feel unusual blood flow.

Mary, via e-mail

A:Kicks to the neck can lead to many different problems that can result in acute issues or more chronic concerns, such as the case in your horse's situation. While the esophagus could be traumatized secondary to a kick, that would be more likely to cause the horse to have intermittent esophageal obstruction (commonly known as choke), and the horse would have episodes of feed material coming from his nose when he was obstructed.

The other structure that could have been traumatized from the kick could be his trachea (windpipe). Trauma to the trachea as a result of a kick would be a more probable diagnosis if the horse is having any difficulty breathing as you describe. Furthermore, the sensation you are feeling with your hand is more likely air going through a narrowing of the windpipe than unusual blood flow.

Further diagnostic investigation is necessary to really understand what is going on here. Have your veterinarian examine the horse and perform an endoscopic examination all the way down the trachea, or possibly radiograph (X ray) the site of the trauma to help you determine if that's the problem. Tracheal problems can be very difficult to manage, and you should consult with an equine surgeon if one is identified.

About the Author

Eric J. Parente, DVM, Dipl. ACVS

Eric J. Parente, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, is an associate professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More