Does Your Horse Have the Slobbers?

As a horse owner, you have likely come across various health issues that can affect these magnificent animals. One condition that might have caught your attention is “the slobbers.” If you’ve never heard of it before, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Slobbers are a relatively uncommon but fascinating condition that can affect horses. This article will delve into the details of this peculiar circumstance, including its causes, symptoms, and potential treatments. So, if you’re ready to learn more about the slobbers, read on!

What is the Slobbers?

The slobbers, scientifically known as “slobbers syndrome” or “black patch disease,” is a condition that primarily affects horses but can also impact other grazing animals like goats and cattle. The name “slobbers” comes from one of its most noticeable symptoms – excessive salivation or drooling.

When a horse has the slobbers, it may develop a dark-colored, sticky saliva found on its face, neck, chest, and forelegs. This saliva, often resembling molasses or tar, is produced due to consuming certain plants that can trigger this condition.

Causes of the Slobbers

While the exact cause of the slobbers is not fully understood, it is believed to be linked to the presence of a particular fungus called “Rhizoctonia leguminicola” in the horse’s diet. This fungus is commonly found in various legumes, such as clover, alfalfa, and red clover, especially when stressed or experiencing extended periods of high humidity.

When horses consume forage contaminated with this fungus, it produces a toxin called slaframine. This toxin affects the salivary glands, causing them to become overactive and leading to the excessive drooling associated with the slobbers.

It’s important to note that not all horses react to slaframine similarly. While some horses may develop the slobbers after ingesting small amounts of contaminated forage, others may not show any signs at all. Variations in an individual horse’s tolerance or sensitivity to slaframine are believed to play a role in this discrepancy.

Symptoms of the Slobbers

Aside from excessive drooling, horses with slobbers may exhibit a few other symptoms. These can include:

  1. Loss of appetite: Horses may eat less or refuse to eat altogether due to the discomfort caused by excessive salivation.
  2. Depression or lethargy: The slobbers can make horses feel unwell, leading to a lack of energy or enthusiasm.
  3. Weight loss: If the horse’s intake of contaminated forage is significant or prolonged, it may experience weight loss over time.
  4. Oral irritation: Excessive salivation may cause the skin around the mouth and lips to become irritated or develop sores.
  5. Sticky saliva: The saliva produced by horses with the slobbers is often thick and sticky, adhering to the skin and hair of the affected areas.

It’s worth noting that these symptoms may vary in severity depending on the individual horse and its tolerance to the toxins.

Treatment and Prevention of the Slobbers

When treating the slobbers, most cases resolve independently once the contaminated forage is removed from the horse’s diet. However, a veterinarian may be consulted in severe or persistent cases to provide additional support or suggest alternative treatments.

Sometimes, hosing or bathing the affected areas can help remove the sticky saliva and temporarily relieve the horse. Additionally, certain mouth rinses or ointments may be recommended to alleviate any discomfort or irritation caused by excessive drooling.

To prevent the slobbers, being mindful of the pasture and forage available to your horses is crucial. Regularly inspecting grazing areas for the presence of legumes contaminated with the Rhizoctonia leguminicola fungus can minimize the risk of your horses developing this condition.

If you notice signs of slobbers in your horses, you must take swift action to prevent further consumption of contaminated forage. Moving the horses to a different pasture or providing alternative feed sources can help alleviate their symptoms and promote recovery.


Slobbers are a curious condition that affects horses, causing excessive drooling and other associated symptoms. While not all horses react to the toxin produced by the Rhizoctonia leguminicola fungus, horse owners must be aware of the potential risks and take steps to prevent their equine companions from consuming contaminated forage.

By understanding the slobbers’ causes, symptoms, and treatments, horse owners can better protect the health and well-being of their beloved animals. Whether removing contaminated forage from the diet or seeking veterinary guidance, proactive measures can help keep horses happy and slobber-free.

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