Managing Equine Asthma

Horse nostrils

Helping Your Horse Breathe Easier: Managing Equine Asthma

Equine asthma affects your horse's lung function and can even cause death in severe cases. Fortunately, you may be able to reduce the number and severity of equine asthma attacks by making a few changes in your horse's environment.

How Equine Asthma Affects Your Horse

Equine asthma is an umbrella term that encompasses recurrent airway obstruction (heaves) and inflammatory airway disease. Asthma triggers spasms, swelling, and inflammation in your horse's lungs and narrows the small airways. Increased mucus production caused by inflammation also makes it difficult to breathe easily during an asthma flare-up.

Some horses experience only mild asthma symptoms while others struggle with severe symptoms that compromise their ability to breathe.

Signs of equine asthma may include:

  • Coughing, Especially When Active or Eating
  • Wheezing
  • Nasal Discharge
  • Difficulty Breathing, Even at Rest in Some Cases
  • Flared Nostrils
  • Decrease in Energy Level and Stamina

Reducing Exposure to Airborne Irritants and Allergens Is Essential

Exposure to mold, fungi, dust, endotoxins, or ammonia can be asthma triggers. Although horses with allergies are more likely to develop asthma, allergies alone aren't the only cause of equine asthma. In fact, any horse can experience asthma symptoms after exposure to dust and other airborne irritants.

Decrease irritants and allergens by:

  • Finding a New Place to Store Straw and Hay. Keep stray and hay far from stalls to reduce asthma symptoms. Make sure storage areas are dry to reduce mold.
  • Trying New Bedding. Shavings, cardboard, shredded paper, or peat are better options than straw, according to an October 2020 article in The Horse.
  • Making Cleaning a Priority. Remove old bedding daily and clean stalls thoroughly to reduce exposure to dust, mold, and ammonia. Wait an hour or two before bringing horses back into the barn, as cleaning may stir up airborne particles.
  • Pasturing Your Horse. Keeping your horse outdoors as much as possible may help reduce asthma flare-ups.
  • Improving Ventilation. Good airflow can prevent the build-up of airborne irritants. Make sure your horse has access to a window or another source of outside air when stabled.
  • Considering a Change in Diet. If eating dry hay seems to worsen asthma symptoms, it may be time to make a few changes. Switch to high-quality alfalfa hay, offer pellets instead, or follow the advice of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and try alternative forages like soaked hay cubed or soaked beet pulp flakes. Finding a type of feed that doesn't irritate your horse's lungs will probably take a little trial and error. If one type doesn't help or worsens symptoms, try another.

Talk to Your Equine Veterinarian About Treatment Options

If changes to your horse's environment aren't enough to control asthma symptoms, your veterinarian can discuss treatments that may be helpful including:

  • Bronchodilators. If you have asthma, you're probably familiar with inhaled bronchodilators. The medications relax the muscles in the lungs and open up the airways, improving breathing, and stopping spasms. The medication is delivered through a small mask-spacer device over your horse's nostrils.
  • Corticosteroids. These medications reduce inflammation and swelling in the airways and decrease mucus production. Corticosteroids and bronchodilators are often used together.
  • Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA) Supplements. Giving your horse PUFA supplements may offer a simple way to manage asthma symptoms. Coughing improved by 60 percent and respiratory effort decreased by 48 percent in horses participating in a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2015. Horses were fed a hay-free pellet diet and received PUFA supplements every day for two months.
  • Intravenous Magnesium Sulfate. In another study funded by the Morris Animal Foundation, horses were given intravenous magnesium sulfate during asthma attacks. The medication relaxed the airways and improved breathing without causing any long-term negative effects.

Does your horse suffer from asthma? We can help you manage the symptoms and reduce flare-ups. Give our office a call to schedule a convenient appointment.

Sources:

American Association of Equine Practitioners: Managing Summer Pasture-Associated Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, an Asthma-Like Disease of Horses

Veterinary Practice News: What You Need to Know About Equine Asthma Syndrome, 2/27/17

Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine: Omega‐3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Provides an Additional Benefit to a Low‐Dust Diet in the Management of Horses with Chronic Lower Airway Inflammatory Disease, January- February 2015

University of Florida IFAS Extension: Understanding Equine Asthma and Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO) in the Horse, 6/19

The Horse: Breathing Easy: Managing Horses With Asthma, 10/17/20

Location

Find us on the map

Office Hours

Closed Daily from 12:30pm to 1:30pm

Monday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Tuesday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Wednesday:

Closed

Thursday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Friday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

Closed

Testimonials

How Pet Parents Feel About Gooding Vet

  • "Excellent service."
    G.B.
  • "Great local vet. Can't say enough about Dr. Amber and her crew. Caring, warm, thoughtful, compassionate and all for reasonable costs."
    C.S.
  • "Very compassionate."
    K.G.
  • "We had our first visit today and I couldn't ask for better! Everyone in there was amazing. Beyond blessed. Thank you guys for what you do."
    J.K.
  • "Best place to go. We had our first visit today and I couldn't ask for better! Everyone in there was amazing. Beyond blessed. Thank you guys for what you do."
    J.K.
  • "Very professional & friendly. Helped me through a very emotional time."
    R.H.
  • "New vets are caring, gentle and very nice."
    L.F.
  • "Dr. Amber Parish is experienced, knowledgeable, and highly professional. She is easy to talk to and explains things very well. I trust her opinions and judgment when it comes to my pets."
    C.J.
  • "Always very helpful and knowledgeable and my furbabies seem to like it as well."
  • "Great Vet ❤️ Great Vet Tech Care!"
    B.C.
  • "Educated and caring staff!"
    J.P.
  • "Thank you for helping my pup overcome her vet-anxiety without medication. Takes time, persistence and patience."
    C.S.
  • "Dr. Parish is so kind and amazing with my dogs ... so glad to have her as a part of our community."
    S.F.