Dropping Feed and Difficulty Chewing (Quidding) in Horses

Key Takeaways

Quidding is the term used for when horses drop feed from their mouths while they are chewing, or leave balls of partially chewed hay or other food behind in their feed buckets. 

• Typically the cause is dental issues including sharp or broken teeth, abscesses, or foreign objects stuck in the mouth

• In rarer cases, other behavioral, physical, or neurological conditions are the cause

• Horses that are quidding benefit from dental examination by a veterinarian

• Further diagnostic tools include a physical examination, neurological tests, X-rays, and ultrasounds

• Treatment is typically dental work to correct dental pain

• Other treatments depend on the underlying cause identified

A Closer Look: What is Quidding in Horses?

Quidding can range in severity from dropping small amounts of pelleted feed or grain during eating, to dropping large balls of wadded hay or forage material from the mouth. Typically, quidding of forage material indicates more severe difficulty chewing.

Possible Causes

Typically quidding is associated with dental pain. The horse can get the food into its mouth, but chewing it properly is difficult. Possible dental issues include:

• Sharp spurs of enamel

• Loose teeth

• Fractured teeth

Periodontal disease (inflammation of the gum and bone that supports the teeth)

• Misalignment of the teeth, including shear mouth or wave mouth

• Objects stuck in the mouth, such as sticks

• Masses in the mouth

Infected tooth roots

• Abscesses in the cheeks, gums, or tongue

Sometimes quidding is the result of behavioral circumstances including:

• Eating too quickly

• Eating while anxious

• Being easily distracted 

In some cases, quidding results from problems in the joints of the jaw, or because of swelling or abnormalities to the face or neck due to injury.

In rare cases, neurological conditions prevent the horse from effectively picking up food and chewing it.

Risk Factors

Horses that are quidding are at risk of losing weight and body condition. Prompt veterinary attention is required. Quidding is common in horses, particularly in older horses as dental issues and other health problems increase with age.

Testing and Diagnosis

Horses that are quidding benefit from prompt veterinary attention to determine the underlying cause and plan treatment. Diagnostic tools include:

• Physical examination, including watching the horse eat

• Oral examination

• Neurological examination

• Skull X-rays

• Ultrasound of the head, jaw, and neck

Typically, horses must be sedated during the diagnostic process.

Treatment depends on the diagnosis and may include:

Dental work, including removal of foreign objects or damaged teeth

• Pain relief medications

• Antibiotics, in the case of infection

• Antiinflammatories, in the case of inflammation

• Removal of masses within the mouth

Similar symptoms

In some cases, horses are messy eaters and quid despite having no underlying issues. Thorough veterinary examination is needed to rule out other causes before dropping food is chalked up to messiness.

Associated Symptoms

Other symptoms that are often associated with quidding include:

• Weight loss

• Loss of condition

Halitosis (bad breath)

• Nasal discharge from one nostril

• Eating with the head tilted

• Excessive salivation

• Discomfort with the bridle

• Swelling in or around the mouth

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