Choking & Reguritation -
Signs include gagging, coughing, and regurgitating immediately
after eating. Choking is due to the blockage of the upper airways.
The body tries to cough out the blockage while struggling for oxygen at the same
time in order to survive. Most often choke is from eating grain too rapidly or
it may be due to the type of grain being fed. Pellets that are rather hard and
small in diameter will cause less choking problems.
When the animal is coughing and regurgitating, often you can see or feel a
"ball" of food lodged somewhere in the esophagus. You can help work
it out by massaging with upward movements on the neck area to remove the
blockage. Be sure no food or water is available to the animal until after
the blockage is removed. During a less severe blockage in the esophagus,
you may see regurgitation or throwing up - most likely dissolved feed that was
just recently eaten. With a complete obstruction, immediate emergency
methods must be taken to remove the blockage and ensure the animal's ability to
Most of the time the cause of choking, if not due to the size of
the pellets, is due to feeding management and behavior. Feeding management
can be improved immensely by feeding in long, shallow troughs which forces them
to eat slower and take smaller mouthfuls. Deep dishes encourage fast
eating and enables them to get large, gulping mouthfuls which is conducive to
choke. Make sure there is sufficient feeding space so all animals can eat
comfortably without being intimidated by others. Another helpful method is
to put large rocks in the feeding dish and layer the feed pellets with hay to
slow down the consumption of feed.
A more serious disorder which also may exhibit choking signs is
Megaesophagus. This is a condition of the esophagus - the main sign is
regurgitation choking, and difficulty swallowing. Secondary signs are
nasal discharge, cough, and fever. Generally, affected animals are
smaller in size and unthrifty. Veterinary consultation is necessary.