Equine Health

Equine health information provided with reference to equine respiratory diseases. Respiratory diseases such as COPD, Strangles, equine rhinovirus inhibit proper delivery of oxygen to the lungs.

Infections and/or air irritants cause inflammation of the airway, contraction of bronchial muscles, and mucous accumulation in the air passages. These factors reduce the amount of oxygenated air that is able to reach the lungs. Generally symptoms include listlessness, discharge from the nose, eyes, or coughing at the slightest provocation.

Symptoms of equine health problems:

• inflammation of the nasal passages and throat

• Fever

• Coughing

• Wheezing

• Lack of appetite

• Depression

• A lump denoting an inflamed lymph node.

Incubation of respiratory viral infections in horses generally takes three to seven days after exposure before clinical signs will begin to show


• A coughing horse should be isolated from others in the event that the problem is induced by a viral or bacterial infection.

• Treat the symptoms and increase the comfort level of its victim.

• Wait for flu to run its course

• Rest - Exercised horses did not have the virus any longer than those given stall rest but the symptoms are exacerbated by exercise

• Rectal temperature to check for fever

Risk of respiratory disease due to:
Trailering horses:

• Dehydration - impairs pulmonary defense mechanisms that normally clear infectious material

• Confinement in trailers with their heads elevated, they have decreased clearance of infectious material simply due to gravity

• Ammonia

• Particulate matter from bedding and feed

• Carbon monoxide

• Temperature extremes

• Poor ventilation

• Overcrowding in trailer

• Stress, rigorous competition schedule

• More encounters with other horses

• Rhino virus and influenza are common respiratory culprits among competition horses, due to their exposure to other horses and because of strenuous competition schedules and frequent trailering

Stable conditions leading to risk of respiratory ailments and poor equine health.

Situations that can stimulate an allergic respiratory condition

• Dusty hay and bedding

• Competition horses are most susceptible to viral infections because of their exposure to a great number of other horses at a given time.

• Musty odor from mold

• Strong ammonia fumes in the barn due to urine-soaked bedding

• Riding arena adjacent to the stalls where the horses would be exposed to airborne particles and dust In turn, compromised lungs quality makes them more susceptible to viral attack.

• Horses that are regularly stabled for long periods

• Working a horse in dusty schools

Control and prevention

• Affected horses should be isolated at least 3 weeks from other horses 30 – 40 yds

• Minimize contact by feeding separately

• Keep grooming equipment and tack for each horse

• No horses taken off premises for minimum 3 weeks

• New arrivals vaccinated and isolated for 2-3 weeks

• Peat is a beneficial alternative stall bedding for horses suffering from COPD (heaves).

• An early history of either infection or allergen exposure may set up the pattern of respiratory disease for the life of the horse

• Vaccination of other horses if initial cases are quickly identified using vaccines containing several viral agents EHV-1 EHV-4

• Feed horse with Head-down. Enabling a horse to clear dirt and dust from his nostrils and airways rather than inhaling irritating particulate matter into the lungs.

• Shake open the flakes of hay and soak each thoroughly with water for affected horses

Routine prevention to maintain equine health.

• Vaccination enforcement

• New arrivals isolated for 2-3 wks

• Avoid overcrowding of horses

• Quality of barn air maximized by ventilation to reduce humidity and maintain good air circulation

• Proper drainage and sanitation

• Maintain cleanliness of barn floor, stalls, water buckets

• Avoid dirt paddocks

• Effective parasite control program

• Don't groom or muck out your horse while he is still in his stable.

• Follow the minimal dust rule when traveling. Ensure good ventilation and tie the horse up so that he is still able to lower his head

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