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Mumps? Horses Get Mumps?

Updated on March 28, 2011

Grassmumps and New Pasture

Now that this wintertime of rising hay costs is almost gone, most of us horse owners are inclined to think that our feeding problems are over as well. But for some of us that doesn't seem to be the case.

When I went to see my gelding the other day, I was shocked to see that the area between his cheek bones and his throat was totally swollen! The first thing a horse owner thinks about is the dreaded strangles (a highly contagious equine disease). But I knew that this couldn't be the case because my gelding had been vaccinated against it, he wasn't running a temperature, and was eating just fine. Plus, the next day, in the space of about 15 hours when he was kept inside, the lumps reduced to about half their original size.

The barn manager told me that she had seen something similar to this before. She said it was definitely not strangles but was just a passing bout of mumps. It is totally harmless to humans and horses and does not affect the appetite, or cause a high temperature.

The first thought on my mind was "Mumps? Horses get mumps?" A quick search engine quest and I found that it was indeed the mumps but what is also specified as grass mumps. It seems that grass mumps happen to some allergic horses during the spring. It can be an allergy to a certain weed or pollen which causes the glands on the horse's neck to swell. Another known cause is when the spring grass first begin to grow. The new grass tends to be higher in sugar which could cause a similar allergic reaction.

There is no real cure, it goes away and reoccurs a few times. All you have to do is wait for the grass to come totally in or for the allergens to subside. You could also keep your horse in their stall with limited to no turnout, but some horses need to be outdoors so that just isn't an option.

It can cause your horse to be slightly sore around the neck. In some cases he/she might not want to work very much because bouncing up and down at the trot/canter can be very annoying with the large bulge under their throat. It makes it hard to collect or maneuver. The degree of severity of the mumps depends on the horse, some can get very large (such as with my gelding) or some can be very minuscule. It all depends on your horse's degree of allergic reaction.

So, while we wait for the mumps and the rain to stop, let us keep dreaming of summer, when the sun shines brightly and the horses graze peacefully on the rich, full grass.


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