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Respiratory problems in horses

How do you recognize respiratory problems in horses and how can you treat your horse? Read everything about it in this blog!

Just like humans and other animals is a healthy respiratory tract very important. We all need plenty of oxygen to function and perform. In addition that horses could have chronic diseases such as equine asthma, and they can also have temporary complaints. These could be complaints such as an infection, but also a temporary irritation in the respiratory tract. How can you recognize respiratory problems in horses and how can you treat them? Please continue to read!

Recognizing respiratory problems in horses

Luchtwegproblemen bij paarden uiten zich, afhankelijk van het paard en van de oorzaak, op allerlei manieren. We hebben een aantal typerende signalen op een rij gezet die kunnen betekenen dat jouw paard last heeft van zijn luchtwegen.

Respiratory problems can be different per horse and the cause of it. We have some typical signals, or symptoms, that means that your horse has respiratory problems.

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Restlessness
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sounds when breathing
  • Declining performance
  • General chest tightness

Possible causes for respiratory problems

Respiratory problems in horses can have different causes. The severity of the causes can differ as well. This is why it is very important that when you notice new symptoms or more severe symptoms you consult your vet as soon as possible. What are possible symptoms in horses? We have listed a few below.

  • Allergies

In spring everything starts to grow and to blossom. This also means that there is pollen in the air. Horses with pollen allergy could suffer from it. Do you want to know more about pollen allergy in horses? Please read this blog.

  • Infections

Just like humans, can horses get sick due to a virus or bacteria. When they settle in the respiratory tract, then will horses suffer from a respiratory infection.

  • Chronic conditions

Respiratory problems can also be a chronic disease. Collective terms can differ but some of them are: equine asthma, COPD, RAO and dampness. Always consult a vet in the case you notice symptoms at an early stage to prevent respiratory problems, to prevent they become chronic.

  • Changing seasons

When it gets colder outside, respiratory problems could arise. The resistance of horses is lower in colder seasons and could cause infections. Horses stay in autumn and winter more time in the stables, which could cause respiratory problems as well.


Autumn and winter

Besides, that horses have a lowered resistance during autumn and winter, but there are also factors that could play a part during the colder months to cause respiratory problems. An important factor is a change from staying in the meadows to staying full-time in the stables. Most stables aren’t ventilated properly, which means that irritating substances like dust and ammonia could irritate the respiratory tract of the horses. In autumn there is also a major change in the rations. Where fresh grass used to be the main source of food, the roughage changed to hay or silage. Silage could possibly cause respiratory problems. The acidity of the silage is higher and thus it increases the chance of fungi. The lowered resistance, poorly ventilated stables and the change of rations could cause respiratory problems during autumn and winter.


Preventing respiratory problems in horses

Preventing is better than curing the disease. It isn’t always possible to prevent a disease, but there are various things you could do as a horse owner to prevent respiratory problems.

The most important tip is to reduce substances that could irritate the respiratory tract of your horse. Think about substances such as dust, fungi, and ammonia. A horse that stays a lot in the meadows has more fresh air and suffers thus less from irritating substances. This is of course not possible in every situation. This is why it is very important to follow the next tips.

  • Make sure the house is sufficiently ventilated. Leave access doors open as much as possible for a good supply and also take into account the exhaust of air. You can achieve this by installing a ridge ventilation, for example
  • Use a less dusty bedding, such as flax instead of straw
  • Do not scatter straw or flax while your horse is in the stable. Stretch the time between spreading and putting your horse in the stable, preferably as long as possible
  • Limit the smell of ammonia by cleaning the house in good time

Finally, there some types of roughage could be dusty such as hay. If you give ‘wetter’ roughage, for example by spraying the hay, then it could prevent respiratory problems.


Helping a horse with respiratory problems from the inside

In addition of making sure that your horse has plenty of fresh air and a healthy stable climate, you can also support your horse from the inside when they suffer from respiratory problems. First of all, is it very important that the immune system of your horse works properly. This is the only way that you can prevent respiratory problems in horses. You can also support your horse by giving them herbs. Below you find a list of herbs to support the respiratory tract.

  • Plantago: Plantago is a herb that has been used for ages due to its healing properties. The herb is now mostly seen as a weed, but that is a shame. Plantago works healing during respiratory problems and could also work anti-inflammatory.
  • Lungwort: The name actually says what this herb is good for. Lungwort is known to have a positive effect on the airways and was previously often used for conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. After all, lungwort has an expectorant effect and thus opens the airways.
  • Lesser Skullcap: Lesser Skullcap is a powerful herb and can be used as a natural antihistamine. This can cause horses to react less to substances that irritate the airways.
  • Mullein: Mullein is an herb with many useful plant substances that can support your horse in the airways. The herb has an expectorant effect and thus has a soothing effect on the airways. In addition, the mullein has a cough suppressant effect and opens the airways.
  • Fenugreek: Fenugreek is an herb with many health benefits. The herb is rich in vitamins A, B and C, calcium and phosphorus and has the characteristic of having a soothing effect on the respiratory tract. In addition, fenugreek gives a boost to the entire immune system.
  • Boswellia: Boswellia is extracted from the frankincense tree (Boswellia Serrata). The active ingredient of this herb, boswellic acid, has a supporting and healing effect on, among other things, the respiratory tract. In addition, it has a positive effect on the overall immune system.

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