Why you should kiss your horse on the nose

If your horse's breath makes you cringe, investigate the possible causes of the problem.

Give your horse a kiss on the nose and you may catch a whiff of sweet grain, fresh hay and perhaps the peppermint candy you just gave him. But if the smell of your horse’s breath causes you to recoil, something in his mouth, sinus passages or respiratory system may be amiss.

A young girl giving a horse a kiss on the nose
A quick kiss on your horse’s nose

Bad breath—usually a sickly sweet odor not unlike trash left in the sun—can signal an abscessed tooth, a tumor or an advanced lung infection, such as pneumonia. The odor comes from bacterial overgrowth in decomposing tissues. Foul breath can also signal that a horse has not eaten in an extended period of time: Saliva helps to flush organisms from a horse’s mouth, and when he hasn’t been chewing regularly, the bacterial population can flourish.

Click here to learn the facts about heaves in horses.

If your horse’s breath becomes malodorous, ask your veterinarian to investigate. In addition to a full physical and dental exam, she may want to use an endoscope to search for the source of the problem in your horse’s sinuses and airways.

Don’t miss out! With the free weekly EQUUS newsletter, you’ll get the latest horse health information delivered right to your in basket! If you’re not already receiving the EQUUS newsletter, click here to sign up. It’s *free*!

What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!