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My horses are salivating very excessively. I mean they are making big puddles on the ground. Otherwise, they are acting normal; they eat fine; they are not very interested in drinking but they will.

Do you have any ideas of what might be wrong? I have seen possums in the barn but after reading up on possum disease it does not have the same symptoms.

The vet said maybe a chemical overspray from the fields but they haven't been spraying anything for a while.

R. H.


The short answer is that excessive salivation can be caused by anything that irritates the horse's mouth -- which may include chemical irritants such as residue from that spraying in the neighboring field.

Some of the other major causes are:

1. Dental disease -- including teeth that are broken or need to be floated, an abscess or a sore in the mouth. Feeding on prickly plants like barley, foxtail, porcupine grass and spear grass can cause irritating damage to the mouth. Mouth sores can sometimes be caused by a damaged or ill-fitting bit.

2. Toxic plants that irritate the mouth -- including African Rue, Greasewood, Staggergrass, Larkspur, Skunk Cabbage, Mesquite, Nightshade, Mustard, Cress, Sneezeweed, and Laurel.

3. Slaframine Toxicosis, which is caused by feeds -- especially red clover -- contaminated by the fungus Rhizoctonia leguminicola. Symptoms associated with eating moldy clover include slobbers, photosensitivity, sunburn and bleeding. Slobbers is a condition characterized by excessive salivation. Horses aflicted with slobbers can sometimes produce enough saliva to fill several five-gallon buckets in a day. Mold growth is usually triggered by hot, humid weather and the mold is often seen as a rusty red color on the tops of the leaves. The mold usually runs its course over a period of two weeks to a month.

4. Feeding on plants infested with hairy caterpillars or blister beetles.

In addition to consulting with your vet, you may also want to get in touch with your local agricultural extension service and have one of their experts look over your pasture, feedstocks, etc. for possible sources of oral irritation.

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