How to Treat Heaves in Your Equine

If your horse has trouble breathing, nasal discharge, and a cough, they may be experiencing heaves. Heaves is also known as COPD, now referred to as recurrent airway obstruction or RAO. It is the most prevalent lung disease in equines, especially in older or mature horses. Heaves give horses difficulty breathing and can also result in weight loss and poor performance. Conditions occur typically between the ages of 9 to 12 years old. Symptoms can last from several days to several weeks, so treating your horse as soon as they arise is vital to prevent more harm. There are a few ways to treat your horse with heaves and provide them with more comfort.

The best way to treat your horse is by properly managing the environment around them. The number one way to do so is to lessen their exposure to dust and mold. To accommodate your horse: 

  1. Keep your horse out of the barn when you can to be anywhere with fresh air. If they have to stay in the barn, ensure they have good ventilation to air out all the dust inside. Fans can help ventilate in addition to having doors and windows open. If your horse needs to be hauled, ensure the trailer is ventilated because that can also impact your horse.
  2. Feeding your horse chest high will keep their head away from eating feed on the ground. Placing hay in bags at chest height or installing grain feeders at the same level will lower their exposure to dust. It is easier for them to inhale dust and hay particles from the ground. To help with the hay dust, flash soak the hay with water for 10 minutes before feeding. Try to leave hay lying around only for a short time because mold may start to grow. The excess water may grow mold faster than usual. Minimize growth with a dry and cool spot that is well-ventilated.
    old barn interior with light shining through wood and windows
  3. Properly manage the habitat around your horse. Your horse's bed should be misted with water once or twice a day. This can be done when you are cleaning the stall. Your horse's bedding should be pine shavings. Avoid using straw or wood shavings. Their stall should be regularly cleaned, and your equine should be out of the stall when doing so. If not, dust particles will pick up while you clean, and your horse will inhale them. Even sweeping should not be done while your horse is in the barn. Also, avoid riding your horse in dusty areas.
heave ho breathing allergies copd and coughing for horses veterinary formula nutritional supplement

Here at Equine Medical and Surgical Associates, we have our Heave Ho supplement that helps with chronic allergies/COPD/asthma in equines that struggle with respiratory issues. Most horses see results in 10-14 days with improved coughing, calmer attitudes, and improved respiratory rates. The ingredients in the Heave Ho supplement are natural herbs, a high dose of vitamin E, and balanced minerals. These herbs help fortify your horse’s immune system using phytonutrients, immune modulators, adaptogens to help deal with the stress of breathing issues, and anti-inflammatories. Heave Ho comes in two flavors – Molasses and Sugar-Free Apple for Insulin Resistant/Cushings horses. At Equine, we strive to get your horse back to peak health, and we believe they must receive the best treatment and supplements for any issues as soon as possible!