How to Manage a Horse with Respiratory Illness

Get advice on how manage a horse with respiratory illness, from what to feed to which medications and natural products to use in order to ease symptoms.

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By: Susan Stafford-Pooley |

Horses can suffer from transitory and chronic respiratory diseases, as explained in this Horse Sport article. Viral respiratory infections cause flu-like symptoms but usually don’t last more than a couple of weeks, banning complications. Still, sick horses should be isolated, as these infections are contagious.

Non-infectious respiratory diseases such as Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), also known as heaves, are typically chronic. Heaves is triggered by environmental factors and is most common in older, allergy-prone horses. Treatment may include medication, but reducing environmental irritants is critical. Turning the horse out as much as possible, moistening the horse’s hay, or switching to cubes may also be beneficial.

Naturopathic remedies should not replace veterinary treatment but may ease symptoms. Such remedies typically contain herbs said to function as bronchodilators, antihistamines, or cough suppressants, or they may work to increase blood flow in the lungs.

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