Buying hay for horses can be tricky. Certain grasses like foxtail can be dangerous if consumed! The summer annual grass known as foxtail contains seed heads with bristles that break off into your horse’s mouth. Unfortunately, they look can similar to the perennial grass, timothy.
The immature foxtail plant does not possess a danger to your horse. It’s the seed heads that are problematic. They contain spikes that lodge into your horse’s mouth and gums. This soft tissue can develop lesions and even infections from them.
Some signs include:
- Trouble chewing
- Excessive salivation
- Odor from the mouth
- Foam around the lips
- Refusing to accept the bit
When you inspect your horse’s mouth, you may see inflamed gums and ulcers.
If you suspect your horse has consumed foxtail, remove the hay immediately. In mild cases, the horse’s body may rid itself of the embedded bristles. Your veterinarian may need to sedate your horse and remove them, in more severe instances. An antiseptic can help prevent infections.
It’s important you always inspect your hay and pasture. Don’t take your hay supplier’s word. Make sure to check the hay for foxtail yourself.