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3 common horse breathing problems and what to do?

March 2, 2020 Chris Price

3 common horse breathing problems and what to do?

As with many issues, horse breathing problems, need to be identified early in order to proceed with the necessary supportive means. The following article identifies common breathing problems and the solutions that are on offer.

Types of breathing horse breathing problems

  1. General infections with bacteria and viruses i.e. coughs, colds and influenza
  2. Allergies causing difficulty in breathing
  3. Physical problems with the voice box causing ‘roaring’

Signs of infection

  • Coughing
  • Discharge from nose
  • Fast rate of breathing
  • Harsh chest noises
  • Off colour (occasionally)
  • High temperature (occasionally)

Common causes of horse breathing problems

A AIRWAY Problems – General infections

These are caused by either viruses or bacteria. Bacteria cells will respond to antibiotics, whereas viruses (non-cellular particles) do not respond to antibiotics or any normal form of medicine. Viruses tend to weaken a horse’s defence system leaving them vulnerable to further infections and illness. Viruses often are air borne and easily past from horse to horse especially in herds and shared facilities.

B Dust, Pollen, and Airborne irritants (mould spores, pollen and general dust)

Dealing with allergies or ‘Asthma’

Allergies which cause breathing problems are quite common. Generally, they are caused by either one or more of the following:

  1. Mould spores in hay and bedding
  2. Pollen in summer
  3. Viruses

It is often impossible to know why such allergies start and a virus that started the problem may be long gone. For the average horse owner mould spores are the most important cause to deal with. A mouldy batch of hay can cause prolonged airway problems so maintaining a good quality, dry, clean hay supply is essential. Dampening hay reduces the possibility that any particles will be breathed in by your horse.

  1. Physical problems with the ‘voice box e.g. ‘roaring’

Broken winded horses are those that have permanent damage to the structure of the lungs caused by a severe allergic or an ‘asthmatic’ attack. Damage to the lungs results in extra energy needed to expel air out of the lungs in each breath, at such times the horses use intercostal muscles in the belly to raise pressure in the chest to help exhale air. Herbal supplements can be very effective in supporting such severe situations.

Horse breathing problems

What can I do if my horse has a breathing problem?

  1. Assess how serious the breathing problem is, if you are unsure and are worried about the severity do call your vet
  2. Remove as much dust as possible from the environment (dampen hay, feed, use dust free bedding, ensure stables are well ventilated, keep horse out in fresh air where possible)
  3. To reduce the risk of spread of infection have your own sponges, grooming brushes, feed buckets. Clean your horses grooming kit regularly
  4. Nutrition can support the normal working of the immune system
  5. Traditional, natural airways supplements can really benefit horses to maintain normal breathing

For more on diagnosing horse breathing problems click here


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