Horses that cough, we see this regularly in winter. What are the causes of a cough? What should you do about it? And how do you prevent respiratory irritation to becoming a serious problem? Read our 10 tips!
There can be several causes for a cough in your horse. A single cough does not have to be a problem, we sometimes clear our throat without anything wrong. A drifting cloud of dust or a pellet that gets stuck can cause a single – harmless – cough in your horse. Even when you start your training in cold weather, your horse may cough once, without you having to worry too much.
Take coughing seriously
With the above exceptions, you don’t really want your horse to cough. A cough accompanied by a fever is always a reason for a phone call to the vet. Also nasal discharge that is yellow or greenish in color is a clear warning. Is your horse lethargic and listless or is he eating less? Do several horses cough in the stable? All these things are reason to think of a virus or bacteria. In these cases, consult a vet.
Allergies cause a cough
Only one horse coughs in the stable? And does that horse not have a fever or yellow/green snot? Then an allergy to dust and/or mold is more likely. Dust often contains molds, fungal spores and toxins (endotoxins), which can irritate the respiratory tract. This can cause inflammation in the lung ducts, making tough mucus difficult for your horse to cough up. Narrowing of the airways can also occur, the contraction of the lung muscles then causes tightness. In addition, in a dirty or poorly ventilated stable, ammonia can cause irritation to the respiratory tract or aggravate the complaints of an allergy.
If your horse coughs when you go for a ride after being stabled, but if the cough clears up quickly afterwards, then an allergy is likely. For example an allergy to dust or fungi in the hay. Such an allergy can eventually cause chronic respiratory problems. Chronic coughing can permanently damage the lungs. We call chronic respiratory complaints equine asthma.
Does my horse have asthma?
Horse asthma can mainly be recognized by pumping breathing, in other words a belly that moves considerably. Stand diagonally behind your horse to look at the flanks. The abdomen needs some movement, but a squeezing motion or breathing more than 14 times a minute at rest can be an indication of asthma. Wide nostrils and noise when breathing are also not a good sign. In some horses, you can even see the anus open and close when the breath is “pumping”. Various medicines are available for asthma, but good stable management is also of the utmost importance.
Help, my horse is coughing!
What should you do now if your horse is coughing? We give you ten practical tips.
Tip 1: Call the vet if you suspect an infection
Is your horse coughing and does he also have a fever or a yellow snot nose? Or are several horses coughing? Then an infection with a virus (such as EHV or Influenza) may be the cause. Have your vet come to find out and treat this.
Tip 2: Check when your horse is coughing
Does your horse have no snotty nose or fever and does your horse cough especially when you start riding after he has been stabled for a few hours? Then a dust or hay allergy can be the cause.
Tip 3: Sufficient ventilation
Provide adequate ventilation in the house. Do not open everything up against each other, because draft is not pleasant for horses, but a somewhat lower temperature is usually not a problem. So make sure you have fresh air when the horses are in the stable.
Tip 4: Put horses outside as much as possible
In general, for horses that are sensitive to respiratory irritation, it is good to stay outside in the fresh air as much as possible. Even in winter.
Tip 5: Keep your horse’s resistance as good as possible
A healthy immune system is the best defense against respiratory infections. Make sure your horse gets enough exercise, eats healthy and gets all the necessary vitamins and minerals. You can also support his resistance with a six-monthly detox or a special supplement such as HELTIE horse® Cannabidol.
Tip 6: Prevent mold and dust in hay
Packaged hay regularly contains fungal spores. Unwrapped hay can be dusty. To prevent your horse from inhaling dust or mold from its roughage, you can wet or steam the hay.
Tip 7: Put your horse on flax or wood shavings
Straw often contains a lot of dust and sometimes fungi. If your horse is prone to allergies, try to keep him on flax or coarse wood shavings. Sawdust that is too fine is also dusty, so coarse wood shavings are more suitable.
Tip 8: Do not leave your horse inside during dusty work
Dust is created in the air during mucking out, sprinkling and sweeping. Therefore, do this when your horse is outside. Do not use a leaf blower in the stable corridor. Do not put your horse back inside until the stables are well ventilated and any dust has been blown away. That is usually after about two hours.
Tip 9: Also keep the training arena dust-free
Spray the arena in time to avoid inhaling dust while riding.
Tip 10: Use a supplement that supports mucus formation
During normal breathing, cilia in the lungs, together with the mucus present, filter dust particles in the air. If the mucus becomes too tough and is no longer removed by the cilia, problems arise and the horse starts to cough. HELTIE horse® Respiratory supports the airways in producing the necessary mucus. The supplement has a soothing effect on the lungs and replenishes the mucilages that filter the inhaled air.
Conclusion: Take the correct measures with a coughing horse
Cough in horses can therefore be caused by an infection with a virus or bacteria. In that case you often see a snot nose and the horse may have a fever, be lethargic or eat poorly. Another reason for a cough can be an allergy, to dust or mold in hay or straw. In that case, you have to prevent it from becoming chronic. Chronic allergic airway problems are also called horse asthma. If your horse is allergic to dust and / or mold, ensure good management with plenty of time outside, good ventilation and a stable that is not dusty. Optionally, feed steamed or soaked hay. You can support your horse’s immune system with a detox or give a supplement that supports the airways.