Rocky Valley Veterinary Service

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A Case of the “Slobbers”

No, your horse isn’t slobbering because she wants your dinner. But what she may want you to do is check your pasture for clover.

Why do they slobber and drool?

Any animal that grazes runs the risk of consuming plants and seeds that may harbor spines, burrs, or sharp bristles. These can cause drooling due to injured tissues in the mouth. But when the drooling goes on for a long time and seems to be getting worse, the offender is most likely a fungus that frequently grows on red and white clover, less so than alfalfa.

Is your pasture a breeding ground for fungus?

Perennial plants like white and red clover can handle the pressure of overgrazing. When they are stressed by continual grazing, especially in very hot and humid conditions, the fungus (Rhizoctonia) can grow very quickly. That fungus produces slaframine, a toxin that stimulates the salivary glands. This stimulation can cause copious amounts of drool. If it’s on red clover that is baled for hay, the problem will continue when they feed on it.

Is it dangerous?

The easiest way to find out if clover is the issue is to remove the horse from that pasture and see if the drooling stops. Most of the time the problem is just a nuisance and the horse won’t be affected, but horses vary in how sensitive they each are to the toxin and their preference for clover.

Is there a way to stop the slobbers?

A relatively easy way would be to overseed with grasses to reduce the clover from taking over. By practicing good rotational habits, along with fertilizing and resting the pastures, the problem can be controlled. Clover doesn’t need nitrogen-based fertilizer, so if you don’t meet the nitrogen requirements for the other grasses, the clover can take over. If the problem seems out of control you can always try a broadleaf herbicide to remove the clover. Just be sure to choose one labeled for pastures.

If you have other questions about a case of the drools, give us a call! 865-566-8359

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