Veterinary Handbook Disease Finder

Oesophageal Obstruction


Cattle are the main species of interest.



Oesophageal obstruction may occur from feed impaction or following ingestion of a suitably sized object such as a fruit or vegetable. Predisposing factors may include low feed quality or quantity causing hungry cattle to bolt down feed, or problems with chewing as a result of injury or infection of the animal’s teeth or tongue.

Clinical Signs and Diagnosis

Bloat, profuse salivation and nasal discharge may be observed.


Treatment options include sedation with acepromazine or xylazine to relax the oesophagus. Gentle passage of a stomach tube with or without administration of fluid may help to move the obstruction into the rumen. 

An obstructing mass can sometimes be quickly and easily removed from the proximal oesophagus by an experienced operator reaching down the throat. Alternatively, an obstruction in the cervical oesophagus may be massaged up into the pharynx by pressing the fingers into each side of the ventral neck behind the mass. When at the pharynx, keep the fingers pressed into the oesophagus until the animal ejects the mass. If the mass is in the lower cervical or thoracic oesophagus, a carefully manipulated loop of 8-gauge fencing wire passed down the oesophagus by an experienced operator may allow the mass to be moved towards the pharynx.


Spoiled feedstuffs from the galley such as turnips, potatoes and apples should not be fed to cattle or disposed of in a location accessible to the herd. 

Animals recovering from teeth or tongue problems should be closely monitored.