How Long Can A Horse Live With Heaves? (Best solution)

Heaves is the most common respiratory condition affecting horses. Symptoms typically begin to appear around 9 to 12 years of age and both genders are equally affected. Episodes of intense symptoms including severe cough and laboured breathing can last several days or weeks.

  • In brief, it’s hard to tell how long a horse suffering from Heaves can live as it depends on the severity of the disease and the quality of the treatment the horse is receiving. Generally, the horses are not seen surviving more than six months.

How serious is heaves in horses?

Horse heaves is chronic and can threaten your horse’s long-term health and performance. Although your horse’s heaves can’t be cured, and severe cases are difficult to manage, catching it early will help you manage it as well as possible, and perhaps minimize its damage to your horse’s lungs.

What is the best feed for a horse with heaves?

As required, feed only high quality hay, hay cubes or chopped forage products. Soak hay in water prior to feeding to minimize dust. Placing feed at the ground level also may assist in draining inflammatory exudates collected in the trachea.

What causes heaves in a horse?

The disease occurs in horses more than 6 years of age and is the result of an allergic reaction to inhaled particles. The allergens, such as molds, that cause heaves are primarily found in hay and straw. Once inhaled, an allergic reaction causes the small airways in lung tissue to narrow and become obstructed.

Will Benadryl help a horse with heaves?

Assuming you cannot contact your vet: For hives or possible allergic airway disease (heaves), for a 1000 lb horse, give 5-10 tabs of 25mg diphenydramine crushed up and mixed in water and dosed in a syringe orally (by mouth).

Can a horse recover from heaves?

Heaves cannot be cured, but it can often be managed by controlling the horse’s environment. If needed, medications can be used to reduce inflammation in the lungs. Nutritional supplementation to support the immune system and respiratory health can also be beneficial for reducing symptoms.

Can heaves be cured?

While there is no cure for heaves, elimination of the allergens from the affected horse’s environment often reduces or even resolves the clinical signs.

Do hay nets help with heaves?

Horses with heaves shouldn’t be fed using hay feeders or hay nets. If a horse can’t be on pasture, he may do best on pellets; there are pellets formulated especially for horses with heaves. In severe cases, you may need corticosteroids or other products (systemic or inhaled) to reduce inflammation in the airways.

How long can a horse live?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heaves is not hereditary. Some people speculate that it might be, but since there are known environmental triggers (dust, mold, and other allergens), it’s probably more of an environmental reaction.

Is there a vaccine for heaves in horses?

Equine Rhinitis A Virus (ERAV) It may be a contributing or exacerbating factor of inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and recurrent airway obstruction (RAO or Heaves). The vaccine is given annually to semi-annually. A booster is needed 4 weeks after the initial dose is given.

Is heaves in horses like asthma?

Heaves in horses is most similar to asthma in humans. Episodes of heaves are usually observed when horses are stabled, bedded on straw, and fed hay, whereas, elimination of these inciting factors results in remission of clinical signs.

Are horse heaves contagious?

Heaves is a chronic, non-infectious airway condition of horses.

Will a nebulizer help a horse with heaves?

In a veterinary hospital, the horse may be treated with a nebulizer containing medications such as Mucomyst, a drug that also liquefies mucus.

How long does Aservo EquiHaler last?

The Aservo EquiHaler contains sufficient inhalation solution for one horse for the entire treatment duration of the 10 days and an additional amount covering priming and potential losses during administration.

How much does a horse nebulizer cost?

This option has somewhat fewer risks than option 1, has a higher initial cost ($1,000 for the nebulizer mask), but a lower monthly cost- $20-$40/month. Owners using a nebulizer will also have to replace the medication cups on the nebulizer every few months, at a cost of about $80 per cup.

How Long Can A Horse Live With Heaves?

Potomac Horse Fever, Equine Influenza, Equine Herpesvirus, and Equine Herpesvirus are the most deadly diseases that frequently leave us wondering how long our horses will be in pain. Is it possible for my horse to recover? The question of “how long a horse can survive with EPM?” has been discussed previously. It took a long for us to get into the specifics of another devastating horse ailment, Heaves, but better late than never, right? In this essay, we would like to shed some light on how long a horse may tolerate being infected with Heaves.

We must become intimately acquainted with this sickness in order to accurately assess how much time horses have left to live.

In horses, it’s an allergic-based condition that’s comparable to asthma in that it directly interferes with the animal’s capacity to breathe.

Mild instances or early diagnosis may be remedied, but the severity of the condition or the negligence of the horse enthusiasts might result in the horse’s death if left untreated.

So let’s get on with it and talk about what needs to be spoken about at the moment.

How long can a horse live with Heaves?

To be really honest, it’s even difficult for a veterinarian to predict how long a horse would be able to endure with this terrible condition. In contrast, horses who have been well-cared for can survive for several years, and horses who have been neglected can die in a matter of months. How long can a horse tolerate being around Heaves? Some horses are able to survive for up to six months, while others are only able to survive for three to four months. Only the severity of the ailment would be able to provide an estimate of how long your horse will survive.

Why is it so hard to judge how long a horse can live with heaves?

It is extremely difficult to predict how long a horse will be able to live and breathe with us because it is dependent on the severity of the condition and the quality of the therapy being delivered. If the horse enthusiast takes good care of the horse, the horse may live for a longer period of time than planned. If the sickness has gotten out of hand, the horse may not be able to join you in celebrating Easter the next year.

How would you know that the disease is going to take the horse’s life soon?

When the signals became clear, the horse would be on its way to eternal tranquility in the near future. The severity of this lethal condition is indicated by symptoms such as difficulty breathing, nasal flaring, apparent heaving, frequent coughing, exercise intolerance, and wheezing.

How Heaves get confirmed?

When heaves are suspected, either the presence of inflammatory cells in airway secretions or a comprehensive investigation of fluid samples collected from the lungs is usually used to confirm their existence. Now that it’s evident that predicting how long a horse can live with Heaves is difficult since it relies on the severity of the disease and the quality of the therapy the horse is receiving, the question becomes how long a horse can live with Heaves.

Once the horse begins to experience difficulty breathing, it will not be able to survive for longer than six months. Furthermore, nasal flare-ups, obvious heaving, frequent coughing, exercise intolerance, and wheezing can all be indicators that you will require a new air filter in the near future.

Everything about Heaves

Heaves are treatable when they first appear in horses, but once they have taken possession of the animal’s lungs, no amount of treatment or preventative measures will be able to rescue the horse. That is why we frequently hear from horse owners who are concerned about how long their horse will be in pain. Alternatively, how long can a horse survive with Heaves?

Early detection can make it curable

Although it is often regarded as incurable, early discovery and treatment can make it treatable. It is vital to note that, even if the stage is curable, home cures will not be effective in curing the condition. A costly veterinary therapy would only aid in the treatment of the ailment. (Source)

Heaves are carried through pollen, dust, or air

Because it is an allergy condition, it is spread by inhaling dust, pollen, or breathing in air. When a horse breathes in such an environment, the cells in the horse’s lungs release substances that cause mucus to form, the air route linings to thicken, and the air passages to enlarge. The air becomes trapped, and the horse must use additional effort to release the trapped air from his body. After a period of time, the horse’s airways get thicker and more mucus is generated, resulting in coughing and wheezing.

The most common symptoms of Heaves severity

The most prevalent indicators of severe illness are an increase in respiratory rate and the utilization of abdominal muscles. When a horse begins to breathe unnaturally, using its abdominal muscles to force air out of its lungs, it is a symptom that the sickness has grown out of control. A more serious illness might be indicated by symptoms such as coughing, nasal discharge, abnormal lung sounds, and weight loss that occurs suddenly.


It must be understood that this condition cannot be cured, but that a few preventative actions may be taken to reduce the severity of the consequences. Increased fresh air, excellent ventilation within the barn, and moistening his bedding are all things that horse enthusiasts may do to help avoid lung disease. If the attack continues to worsen, the veterinarians will utilize medicine and a variety of medical therapies to reduce the intensity down.

It can be prevented to some extent

It is advised that horses be treated with fresh, dust-free grass and pelleted feed in order to prevent heaves. Furthermore, stalls must be well cleaned in order to avoid this from occurring in the first place. Dust exposure should be kept to a bare minimum to avoid contracting this dangerous illness.


As the information that is worth discussing is being served, it is time to address the most commonly requested questions.

Can you treat Heaves naturally?

Damage can be mitigated, but this condition cannot be cured in any way, whether spontaneously or by medical intervention. By keeping the barn clean, feeding pellets on a regular basis, moistening his bedding, and avoiding dusty indoor arenas, you may minimize the harm.

Can a horse with Heaves be ridden?

Even if a horse suffering from a minor attack can be ridden, doing so would be harsh to the animal in this situation.

The horse’s condition worsens to the point that he is no longer capable of carrying a human on his back while breathing irregularly.

Is there a cure for Heaves?

No, regrettably, a cure has not yet been developed for this disease. It almost always results in the death of the horse.

How do I know if the horse has Heaves?

It is possible to determine if a horse has Heaves or not by studying the indicators. The symptoms of this fatal horse condition, also known as “Heaves” or “Recurrent Airway Obstruction,” include difficulty breathing, the use of abdominal muscles to expel air, nasal discharge, coughing and wheezing, odd lung noises, and abrupt weight loss. In summary, it is difficult to predict how long a horse suffering from Heaves will survive because it is dependent on the severity of the condition as well as the quality of the therapy the horse is getting.

Although this terrible disease is incurable, it can be prevented to a certain extent by following the veterinarian’s recommendations for preventative measures.

10 ways to help horses with heaves

When it comes to some disorders that affect horses, taking a “wait and see” attitude may be acceptable, but heaves is not one of them. In the case of a horse suffering from flare-ups, rapid assistance is required, but even horses that are not experiencing heaves need to be monitored closely. The practice of wetting down hay before to feeding has long been recognized as an effective approach to lessen the amount of dust and mildew that a horse breathes in while eating. In medical terms, heaves are respiratory inflammation produced by inhaling mold, dust, or pollens that are commonly found in barns and surrounding farms.

  1. Although it can cause irritation of the lungs, RAO is more than that.
  2. Heaves are caused by an allergic-like reaction to a factor in the environment, according to Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, DVM, MS, DACVIM, of the Virginia–Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia.
  3. As such, heaves are analogous to human asthma, which is a condition induced by an allergy to particular antigens or irritants in a person’s environment.
  4. Heaves are characterized by a slight coughing fit and/or the intermittent discharge of mucus in its mild form.
  5. It is already rather severe by the time a horse exhibits external indications of respiratory distress because of the continuous inflammation and immunological reactivity in the horse’s body.
  6. In other words, it’s a signal that it’s time to make significant adjustments to the horse’s surroundings and to begin therapy in order for the horse to resume its regular breathing pattern.
  7. For the horse to have difficulty breathing, three important elements must be taken into consideration: Bronchoconstriction: The smooth muscle that surrounds the airways of the lungs tightens, resulting in the passages becoming narrower.

Muscle mass increases the likelihood of airways constriction, creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to escape without medical intervention and therapy.

Neutrophils generate the sort of inflammation that causes mucus accumulation, which drives the overproduction of thicker, stickier mucus than is normally observed in horses.

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According to Laurent L.

In the event that you enter a room where there is a cat, you will know because you will react to it.

We are aware of what works.

In order to offset the physiological consequences of heaves, your veterinarian will likely prescribe anti-inflammatories and/or bronchodilators.

According to Couetil, “Over the years, I’ve probably had around 100 horses donated to me because they couldn’t be handled sufficiently to prevent heaves, but I’ve only had two horses that need medicine every once in a while because respiratory issues flared up.” The remainder have thrived only under our supervision and without the need of medicines.

During the winter, when there isn’t enough grass to go around, they are provided a full pelleted meal.” Your veterinarian is, without a doubt, the finest person to consult when it comes to dealing with your horse’s specific issue.

For now, though, we’ve developed a list of the most often advised strategies for reducing the stress experienced by horses suffering with heaves to assist you in your first research.


Dry hay is one of the most significant sources of dust and mold spores that contribute to RAO development. And it’s not only about “moldy hay” that’s a problem. In Couetil’s opinion, “what is difficult for people to realize is that high-quality hay may be a problem.” “They are aware that moldy hay is bad, yet they believe that their hay is OK. ” In excellent grade hay, however, there is still some dust—as well as some mold spores. In most cases, it is a question of how much. As soon as a horse becomes susceptible to molds, even excellent quality hay might cause a respiratory problem in him.

“The same molds may be found in excellent hay, but there are fewer of them.” The practice of wetting down hay before to feeding has long been recognized as an effective approach to lessen the amount of dust and mildew that a horse breathes in while eating.

Some of the moderately afflicted horses may take even dry hay, as long as it is fed outside, according to Johnson, and for some horses, merely washing the hay with a hose would suffice to alleviate the symptoms.


Steaming is a more recent treatment option for hay fever. Many manufacturers make hay steamers that may be used to steam complete bales, half bales, and individual sections of hay, among other things. “When selecting a steamer, look for one that can raise the core temperature of the hay to 212 degrees Fahrenheit or above; this will eradicate or significantly minimize the presence of germs.” When you steam hay, you are not only adding moisture to it, but you are also reducing the load of molds and fungi on it, which are considered some of the primary causative agents of equine heaves,” explains Buechner-Maxwell, who recently completed a study to determine the benefits of steaming hay for horses.

She discovered that RAO horses that were fed steamed hay had less respiratory indications than horses who were fed untreated hay, according to her findings.

“The procedure generates a little amount of runoff water, which may be channeled into a drain with the use of a hose,” says the author.


Many heavy horses that are kept on pasture have access to round bales, which may aggravate their respiratory problems. “When compared to alternative fodder sources, round bales have greater amounts of endotoxins, dusts, and molds,” says Johnson.

‘People believe that the horse will be healthy just because it is outside and on pasture, and then they wonder why he isn’t getting better—and the answer is that the horse is pushing his snout into a round bale and breathing the dust.’


Occasionally, though, Johnson notes, even washing hay isn’t enough: “A few horses still inhale enough particles/allergens from wet hay to induce the sickness, and they must be removed from hay completely.” The hay should be cubed, and the horses should be fed a whole pelleted ration, with no loose feed at all, she suggests.


The majority of horses with RAO perform best when they are turned out 24 hours a day on non-dusty grass. According to Johnson, if this isn’t practicable, horses should be kept in stalls where they will be subjected to the least amount of exposure to the particles in the air that they breathe. Of course, for horses suffering from summer-pasture-associated RAO, which is provoked by allergens generated by pasture plants, staying in the stable during the summer months may be the best alternative.


When putting a heavy horse in a barn, one of the first things to consider is where the stall will be located. You want it to be in a position with the best ventilation and far away from any sources of dust, such as an adjoining indoor arena or a hay storage facility. “Make certain that the greatest airflow is directed away from any storage stalls or areas where bales of straw or hay may be kept,” advises Johnson. In my opinion, the worst barns are those that have a hayloft above them, with particles falling down from the roof.


The bedding for the stalls is also a significant factor. Straw is one of the worst options, according to Johnson, because it molds easily and retains dust: “It is worthwhile to look for bedding that is low in dust.” At our facility, we provide bedding for these horses made of chopped paper or cardboard. Sawdust is also preferable than straw in this situation. The use of pellets over stall matting is very effective.” If the horses in the next stalls are still churning up their straw, simply changing the bedding in one stall will not solve the problem.


Removing your heavy horse, if not all of your horses, from the barn before cleaning the aisles or performing other tasks that stir up dirt is a good practice. As Couetil describes it, “cleaning out the horse stalls in the barn creates quite a bit of dust.” When it is cold outside, it is beneficial to remove the horse from the barn while you are cleaning and re-bedding the stalls. This is true even in winter.” We and other labs have demonstrated that it takes at least an hour for the dust to settle after cleaning the barn, and in some cases more.

However, don’t scrimp on the housekeeping tasks.

It’s important for me to advise my customers to go down on their hands and knees and put their heads where the horse does.”


For barns where ammonia odors and dusty air is a persistent problem, it may be necessary to increase ventilation throughout the whole structure. It may be as simple as installing fans or opening windows or doors, even in the dead of winter, to allow air to circulate through each stall to solve the problem. A contractor who is familiar with modern barns may also be able to offer low-cost improvements, such as the installation of soffit or ridge vents or cupolas, to increase airflow in the structure.


Omega-3 fatty acids are often used in human medicine to treat a range of inflammatory disorders, and Couetil just released a research demonstrating that horses suffering from heaves may benefit from them as well. According to the results of his double-blind research, clinical indicators in horses with heaves who got supplementary omega-3 fatty acids showed statistically significant improvement when compared to horses who did not get the supplement. “These were first used to treat coronary heart disease, and now they’re being used to treat arthritis and asthma,” explains Couetil.

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Managing Senior Horses with Heaves – The Horse

As our horses’ life expectancies have increased beyond what we could have imagined 20 years ago, we anticipate that their athletic careers will also have increased duration. We must modify our equine management approaches in order to aid in this process. When it comes to elderly horses, asthma is one of the most prevalent performance-limiting illnesses that we can treat. Asthma, also known as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) or heaves, is an inflammatory lower airway disease that we can treat.

  1. Horses presenting for respiratory assessment are diagnosed with heaves in more than half of the cases, according to veterinarians.
  2. First and foremost, heaves tend to intensify with time.
  3. In order to ensure that your older (up to 20 years old) asthmatic horse has regular respiratory tests, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
  4. As a result of this fact, as well as the suppression of immunity associated with equine Cushing’s disease (a hormonal disorder that affects around 30 percent of older horses), your asthmatic horse’s respiratory symptoms may worsen significantly.
  5. Your veterinarian can do a transtracheal wash to culture bacterial organisms and a bronchoalveolar lavage to confirm the presence of heaves if your horse’s infection status is still uncertain after a thorough examination.
  6. When administering corticosteroids to elderly horses, it is necessary to consider the potential side effects, which include immune system suppression and, in rare cases, laminitis of the foot (laminitis).
  7. If your horse has been diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, your veterinarian may want to forgo giving systemic corticosteroids and instead recommend utilizing inhalant drugs, which are not linked with systemic adverse effects.

With time, the clinical indications of aged horses can deteriorate.

Even if a horse suffering from heaves improves immediately after receiving medical treatment, you must continue to monitor and manage his condition in the long term.

In addition, using bronchodilators in an inhaler 30 minutes before exercise can be beneficial as well.

However, as long as you consistently limit your horse’s exposure to dust and allergens through rigorous management practices, the prognosis is usually favorable.

After years of suffering with chronic heaves without receiving therapy, it is possible that the fibrosis (scarring) resulting from airway remodeling in his lungs may be permanent, and his responsiveness to treatment would be restricted as a result of his age.

The treatment of the senior horse with heaves provides some additional obstacles, but with careful attention to management and consultation with your veterinarian, your elderly horse has a good opportunity of continuing his career unhindered by his respiratory illnesses.

Horse Heaves Symptoms and Treatment

Breathing that is labored may be an indication of recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), also known as heaves. Early detection and therapy are critical in the management of this chronic lung ailment. Know what symptoms to watch for. Horse heaves are a chronic condition that can have a negative impact on your horse’s long-term health and performance. Learn about the signs and symptoms of heaves in horses, as well as treatment alternatives. It’s possible that your horse’s persistent little cough at the start of your rides, as well as the odd runny nose, are symptoms of heaves, or recurring airway blockage.

This ailment, which is also known as heaves in humans, is the most frequent type of lung disease encountered in horses.

Although your horse’s heaves cannot be cured, and severe cases are difficult to manage, recognizing it early can help you manage it as effectively as possible, and may even help you reduce the damage to your horse’s lungs as a result of the heaves.

I’ll also assist you in determining the severity of the sickness, explain the many stages of treatment, and provide you with advice on how to avoid having heaves in the first place.

Like Asthma

Horse heaves are an allergic-based condition that impairs your horse’s capacity to breathe, in a similar way to how asthma impairs human breathing. It’s important to remember that when your horse is exposed to allergy-producing elements in the air (such as dust and pollen), his cells in his lungs respond by secreting chemicals that cause the lining of his breathing passages to enlarge, thicken, and generate mucus. During his breathing, air becomes trapped within these enlarged airways. (See illustration.) He will then have to exert additional effort in order to evacuate the trapped air.

  1. Among mature and older horses, this illness is the most prevalent.
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  4. A greater amount of mucus is generated.
  5. His nostrils get clogged with thick mucus, and he begins to struggle to take each breath.

Heaves can cause bacterial infections (such as pneumonia), which are typical complications in severe forms of the condition. Bacteria can become trapped in his airways, resulting in a bacterial infection (such as pneumonia).

Horse Heaves Symptom Checklist

If your horse exhibits two or more of the indicators of the condition listed below, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian for a definite diagnosis and treatment strategy.

Increased Respiratory Rate

  • What causes it to happen: Due to the difficulties your horse is experiencing exhaling air via his thickened airways at rest, he breaths more rapidly than normal in an effort to receive adequate oxygen. This is called hyperventilation. Additionally, his respiratory rate will almost certainly be higher than normal following activity. How to identify it: Count the number of breaths your horse takes each minute when at rest by observing the movement of his sides in and out as he breathes. At rest, his typical respiratory rate should be between 8 and 16 breaths per minute
  • If it is greater, there may be a problem with his breathing.
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Increased Abdominal Breathing Effort

  • What causes it to happen: The fact that your horse’s usual breathing muscles aren’t strong enough to handle the new and more difficult duty means that he must utilize his abdominal muscles to push air out of his lungs. How to identify it: While your horse is breathing, keep an eye out for aberrant abdominal-muscle activity in the abdomen towards the flank. Comparison of what you see with the respiratory effort of other horses in the vicinity. Take notice of the look of the muscles on the sides of his abdomen as well. Do they appear to be disproportionately huge in comparison to those of other horses? His additional breathing effort may have resulted in the formation of a heave line, a horizontal run of muscular growth. Try to locate it around three-quarters of the way down from his spine, toward his belly


  • What causes it to happen: In response to airborne allergens, his lung tissues are inflamed, and he is attempting to discharge mucus. How to identify it: Dust in the air causes coughing along with heaves to occur most frequently at the start of an activity session, as well as during feeding and stall cleaning time. The presence of heaves may also be indicated by continual coughing throughout the day. (Note: Although a cough accompanied by a fever may indicate a bacterial respiratory illness, this does not rule out the possibility of heaves. Your horse’s fever might be caused by a heaves-related, fever-producing sickness, or it could be caused by a completely other but contemporaneous ailment that creates a temperature.

Nasal Discharge

  • What causes it to happen: Heaves are caused by an allergic response in the lungs, which results in the production of mucus by the cells. (The speed with which they do so is determined by how rapidly the illness is advancing.) Eventually, the mucus that builds up inside your horse’s lungs travels down his airways and emerges in his nostrils. How to identify it: Be on the lookout for a thick, hazy discharge that appears to be building up in your horse’s nostrils. If your horse has a gunky discharge, it may be due to simple irritation caused by his heaves
  • However, it may also be indicative of a more serious bacterial illness. Your veterinarian may take a sample of mucus from your horse’s airway to assess if the mucus is mostly composed of inflammatory cells or whether germs are present as well.

Abnormal Lung Sounds

  • What causes it to happen: As a result of the struggle to drive air out via restricted air channels, wheezing occurs. How to identify it: This is normally best left to your veterinarian, who has been educated to diagnose and distinguish respiratory anomalies using a stethoscope, and who can do this procedure safely and effectively. If your horse’s condition is serious, on the other hand, you may be able to notice wheezing if you pay close attention to his breathing. If his condition is still in its early stages, you may be able to detect wheezing when he takes deep breaths while exercising. NOTE: Don’t mistake lung sounds with throat noises, which might be produced by an obstruction or paralysis of the larynx.

Weight Loss

  • What causes it to happen: Your horse is exerting additional effort to breathe, and his body may be deprived of oxygen as a result. How to identify it: Examine the muscular and fat layer that surrounds his ribs, spine, and hips to determine their condition. If the underlying skeletal components of your horse become more visible, it indicates that it is losing weight. (Tip: If you want to keep track of your horse’s weight, consider weighing him once a month using a weight tape.

Treatments for Horses with Heaves

A treatment plan will be recommended once your veterinarian has validated your suspicions that your horse is suffering from heaves and has assessed whether the situation is mild, moderate, or severe, according to the severity of the heaves. I’ve detailed the most common therapies to make it easier for you to grasp what’s available.

Stage 1 Treatment: Mild Heaves

You’ve caught the disease at an early stage, and you may even be able to slow or even stop its progression. The treatment will be as simple as reducing your horse’s exposure to allergen-producing dust and other particles, if at all possible. Please remember to continue these Stage 1 treatments even if your horse is also receiving treatments in Stages 2 or 3. These management strategies are the most crucial things you can do to keep his lungs healthy. )

  • Make as much noise as you can to distract him. He will be less exposed to ordinary barn dust and other airborne particles that might aggravate his disease if he is allowed to roam freely in open, fresh air areas. Provide enough ventilation on the interior. If your horse must spend the most of his time in the barn, place him in a stall near the end of the aisle where there is plenty of circulation, and keep the barn doors and windows open as much as possible to allow for ventilation. In order to ensure a safe trip, ensure that the trailer is well-ventilated and free of bedding that may fly around (rubber mats can offer necessary cushioning). Feed him up to his chest level. While feeding from a hay bag or rack that is put above your horse’s withers might increase his exposure to dust, feeding from a hay bag or rack that is placed below his withers can increase his exposure to dust particles. A feeder that is chest-high eliminates both of these possibilities. Wet his hay with water. Reduce the amount of dust produced by liberally sprinkling it with water or even soaking it immediately before feeding
  • Instead of pellets, think about using them. If providing your horse with wet hay at the appropriate amount does not result in changes in his or her condition, consider giving a pelleted forage diet, which might be moistened
  • Make sure his bedding is moist. Every time you clean his stall, squirt a light mist of water over the surface of the enclosure (ideally once or even twice daily). Avoid bedding materials that are particularly dusty, such as wood shavings. Bedding made of shredded paper can be a nice solution
  • Avoid cleaning in his vicinity. Stall cleaning stirs up dust and other particles, so remove your horse from his stall before cleaning it. Avoid dusty and/or indoor venues if at all possible. Riding outside or in a well-watered arena is recommended. To avoid “eating the dust” of other riders when trail riding, ride in front of them.

Stage 2 Treatment: Moderate Heaves

If your horse is exhibiting significant indications of heaves, or if his mild signs do not improve after receiving Stage 1 therapies, your veterinarian may suggest one or more of the treatments listed below. NOTE: Before showing up, check with your association’s rules to see whether any of the drugs listed below are now prohibited.)

  • Corticosteroids used orally. As a result of exposure to allergy-producing chemicals, the airways become inflamed, which can be controlled with these medications. As a result, the thickness of the airways and the formation of mucus are reduced. Dexamethasone and prednisone are two oral corticosteroids that are routinely used. However, while dexamethasone is the most strong and consequently the most effective, it also has a larger risk of adverse effects, such as founder, than the other medications. It is possible that your veterinarian will offer it as an initial therapy to get your horse’s symptoms under control. Prednisone is less effective but safer than dexamethasone
  • It is more likely to be prescribed for long-term usage if dexamethasone has been tried first
  • Oral bronchodilators are also commonly prescribed. These drugs work by relaxing the muscles that cause your horse’s air passages to spasm and close
  • This, in turn, allows the airways to widen and open, making breathing simpler for your horse to do. Clenbuterol is a potent oral bronchodilator that also has expectorant properties. These aid in the breakdown and thinning of mucus, allowing your horse to evacuate it more easily from his lungs. This makes it possible to breathe more normally and also aids in the elimination of microorganisms that may have become stuck in the lungs. There are a range of over-the-counter expectorants available from your feed shop or veterinarian, such as Tri-Hist? or Spec-Tuss. More extreme instances may necessitate the use of potassium iodide, a powerful and highly effective expectorant that your veterinarian may prescribe. Make sure your horse has access to lots of fresh, clean water, which will aid in the natural loosening of secretions
  • And antibiotics. If your horse’s heaves are made worse by a bacterial infection, you may need to provide these medications. In an ideal situation, your veterinarian will obtain a sample from your horse’s airways in order to target the specific organism with the most appropriate antibiotic for your horse. The use of oral feed additives targeted to horses suffering from respiratory difficulties may also be useful. ) (Ask your veterinarian if he or she has any recommendations.)

Stage 3 Treatment: Severe Heaves

If your horse is exhibiting significant heaves and/or has not responded to either Stage 1 or Stage 2 therapy, your veterinarian may offer inhaled drugs to alleviate the symptoms. To administer medication straight to your horse’s lungs for optimal impact, you’ll place a specially constructed mask (such as the Aeromask from Trudell Medical International) over his nose multiple times each day. Low dosages of medications are now effective, which reduces the likelihood of adverse effects occurring.

  • Corticosteroids that are inhaled. These drugs, like their oral equivalents, aid in the regulation of inflammation while also decreasing airway thickness and mucus formation. Bronchodilators that are inhaled. These medications, like their oral equivalents, aid in the opening of your horse’s airways. You will be instructed by your veterinarian to deliver the bronchodilator first, then wait for a period of time for your horse’s airways to expand before providing the corticosteroid. This will allow the latter to penetrate as deeply as possible into your horse’s lungs in order to have the most possible impact.

Horse Heaves Symptom Checklist

Classic heaves, once known as COPD (chronic obstructive lung disease), are now more appropriately referred to as RAO (recurrent airway obstruction), which stands for recurrent airway obstruction. As a result of the underlying disease process responses of the tissues within the tiny airways of the lungs, breathing problems are experienced by the patient. IAD, also known as inflammatory airway disease, is a less severe respiratory issue that was long assumed to be a precursor to heaves, but is now recognized as a distinct entity.

Horses with IAD normally do not show signs of respiratory distress when at rest, but their performance may be affected, and they may require more time to recover after activity if they have the condition.

IAD is more prevalent in young performance horses than in mature or older horses, as opposed to heaves, which tend to affect mature or older horses.

There is evidence that IAD in racehorses is connected with recurrent bacterial infections, particularly those involving the Streptococcus bacterium. There is presently no established link between IAD and heaves, yet the therapies and preventative actions are similar in both conditions.

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Q:I have an 11-year-old mare who was diagnosed with heaves approximately a year ago and is currently being treated. I’ve tried everything to encourage her to eat certain granules suggested by the vet, but no matter what I do, she won’t eat them. I’ve experimented with molasses, grain blends, grass, hay, and flax seed, among other things. Specifically, I was wondering if you could provide me with additional information concerning heaves and if there were any other solutions I might try. A: A frequent respiratory ailment in horses, heaves, also known as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), involves constriction of the airways, resulting in heavy, hard breathing (heaving), as well as coughing.

Heaves in horses can range from mild occurrences that are triggered by the season to extremely severe flare-ups that cause the horse’s breathing to become so labored that the horse loses weight and develops a “heave line,” which is an excessive development of muscle along the barrel of the horse’s chest.

  • Mold or dust from low quality feed is the most common cause, but it can also be caused by improperly ventilated barns or even unidentified allergens in the pasture.
  • It causes inflammation and constriction in the airways of the horse’s respiratory system, resulting in coughing, loud lung noises, heavy breathing, and flared nostrils as a result of the allergic reaction.
  • Internal medicine specialists would likely check your horse with an endoscope (a thin camera that can be inserted into the trachea) and discover severely inflamed airways that were clogged with inflammatory white blood cells and mucus if you were to take him to a veterinary hospital instead.
  • It is important to understand that, because the cause of heaves has an allergy-dependent base, environmental control is critical to its proper management.
  • This implies that you should strive to keep your horse out of the barn as often as possible.
  • Good, old-fashioned fresh air is the finest thing you can give your horse (whether or not she has heaves!) to keep her healthy.
  • Store hay and straw as far away from your horse’s stall as possible, ideally in an entirely separate building from the one in which your horse is kept.
  • A horse with heaves will almost always require medication, at the very least at the time of diagnosis.
  • Anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator medicines are frequently used for the treatment of these clinical symptoms.
  • Antihistamine granules are most likely what you’re referring to in your description.
See also:  How To Heal A Charley Horse? (Best solution)

Depending on how severe your mare’s condition is, it may be worthwhile to have your veterinarian come out again to re-examine her and possibly prescribe a regimen of tapered doses of steroid in conjunction with a bronchodilator, which can be administered as an oral liquid in a syringe or as a topical cream.

  • When this occurs, inhalers designed particularly for horses are utilized.
  • This is not the case.
  • Horses with heaves can still be ridden if the condition is mild and easily controlled by environmental management and occasional medications for flare-ups.
  • Further conversations with your veterinarian will assist you in developing a strategy that is especially customized to the needs of your mare.

— Anna O’Brien is a fictional character created by author Anna O’Brien. Post your questions on and they will be answered. Forums More information may be found here. Asked by an expert Fill out the form to submit your Ask the Expert question.

Heaves and Euthanasia

If you have reached the limit of what you are willing or able to accomplish, there is no guilt in putting her down. It is difficult to have such a dispute between two couples, particularly if your husband is pressing for it. But there is no scenario in which I would agree to sell her for less than market value or give her away for free. I’m sorry to be harsh, but that is a blatant attempt to avoid responsibility. You are finding it difficult to keep her because of the added costs and demands of your job, and you have developed an emotional attachment to her.

  1. They will put weight on her and then send her on her journey to her destination.
  2. Having said that, I got the impression that you haven’t yet reached the point of letting go.
  3. A dextrose injection every few months is not going to be of any benefit to her.
  4. If she does not have a heave line other than once or twice a month, she is not considered to be a serious case.
  5. To hear the veterinarian remark, “she’s done for, waste of money,” due to the fact that “there is no solution.” Well.
  6. Cushings.
  7. And it doesn’t even have to be a costly therapy to be effective either.

To be honest, it’s probably best if you don’t do it.

All of this was managed, and it was rather successfully.

Dex has the potential to cause adverse effects.

After all, if it provides her with a few (or more) more good years at a very affordable cost, what’s the harm in trying it?

I’m not at all pleased with what your veterinarian came up with.

With only a few minor dietary modifications.

A large number of horses are in need of blanketing.

I’m not saying any of this to make you feel awful; rather, I’m saying it because I believe you aren’t quite ready to give up just yet.

There will be no being in a foreign location, being terrified, or confronting anything worse than euthanasia.

In my position, I would order a culture to be taken to determine what is actually going on.

A Culture will ensure that the appropriate medicines are administered, as not all antibiotics are effective against all respiratory illnesses.

You and your partner must be on the same page. Your partner has to understand that you must feel comfortable with your decision. And, if you and your partner are together, offer her the gift of being able to let go at home in privacy.

What can a person do when their horse has heaves?

If a person’s horse suffers heaves, what should they do? Stacy Westfall and her pals are riding Stacy’s pony, “Midnight Mist,” which is a fantastic horse.” data-image-caption=”My first horse was a pony that was really well trained.” data-medium-file=” data-large-file=” data-small-file=” loading=”lazy” src=” alt=”A nice horse is never a terrible color”>A good horse is never a bad color.” width=”300″ height=”300″ width=”300″ height=”300″ the srcset is 698w, 150w, 300w, and 610w.

  1. Sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px”> Every autumn and winter, my mare suffers heaves, despite the fact that every time I take her to the doctor, they tell me she’s OK.
  2. When I was a youngster, the worst symptoms seemed to manifest themselves during hot, humid weather.
  3. She would complain of trouble breathing as well as wheezing noises in her throat.
  4. I’m not sure what the veterinarian ordered.
  5. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with this issue again.
  6. Finding out that my mother and I had completed five of the eight recommended steps on our own was a pleasant surprise.
  7. What steps did you take to deal with it?

Equine Asthma

Heaves, also known as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) and inflammatory airway disease, are a serious respiratory condition that many of you have certainly heard of (IAD). There are several different names for airway disorders, including allergic airway disease, small airway disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). All of these diseases fall under the umbrella term of equine asthma, and horses suffering from any form of equine asthma have airway inflammation that results in the symptoms you are familiar with, which range from poor performance to coughing, nasal discharge, and overt respiratory distress in some cases.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that horses “at pasturelargely free from disease,” while Louise Hill Curth described a condition known as “heartache,” which was probably caused by heaves, in her book “A plaine and easie waie to remediate a horse”: Equine Medicine in Early Modern England (published in 1700).

IAD or heaves in horses are frequently treated, although they are not always a cure for the condition. Although it may take a lifetime of management, most horses may be restored to athletic function with an accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and environmental modifications.


If your horse suffers a flare-up of heaves, you can usually tell right away. When a poor batch of hay comes in, it is this horse that everyone in the barn recognizes as the one that then sits in the stall with his nostrils flaring and his sides heaving, anxiously trying to get some fresh air. It can be difficult to distinguish between a horse with IAD and a horse with heaves, especially because these two disorders are on a spectrum of severity, and horses with minor heaves might occasionally appear to be completely normal.

Depending on the horse’s profession, the answer is “it depends.” Racehorses, whether they are Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, or barrel racers, require as much oxygen as possible to perform at their best.

In the racing world, the typical description of a racehorse suffering from IAD is that he “quit around the 34% mark.” The Kentucky Derby horse that loses by a length (which appears to be a significant amount in a race) is just about 0.15 seconds slower than the horse in front of him, and it is possible that he lost because he was suffering from idiopathic aortic dissection.

  1. High-goal polo horses are also found on the periphery of the oxygen bubble.
  2. Like racehorses, you may never hear them cough or see any nasal discharge, but if you sprint with an opponent towards the ball, you may find yourself ridden off by one of the horses.
  3. In certain cases, the rider or trainer may observe that the horse’s respiratory rate returns to normal after peak effort for a longer period of time than other horses, or that the animal ‘blows’ more than other horses after exercise.
  4. Have you ever questioned why we race horses rather than cattle, which are, after all, roughly the same size as horses?
  5. Horses have lungs that are nearly twice the size of cattle’s lungs, which is most likely the reason behind this.
  6. As a result, we tend to miss the early phases of IAD when they first appear.
  7. Not until these athletes start coughing or have a substantial nasal discharge do we begin to check for signs of respiratory illness in their system.
  8. As a result of the widespread prevalence of IAD, many individuals mistakenly believe that it is typical for a horse to cough at the start of a riding session.
  9. Coughing is a symptom that something is wrong with the horse’s respiratory system, and the most prevalent cause is IAD (interstitial airway disease).
  10. These nonspecific indicators might all be a clue that something is amiss with the horse’s respiratory system, and they should be taken seriously.
  11. When the weather is hot and humid, they are more likely to exhibit severe symptoms.

Many horses also exhibit harsher indicators with the onset of pollen season, particularly if their pastures are surrounded by tall evergreen trees. When indoor arenas get dusty or when barn management methods increase the amount of dust in the air, symptoms are frequently exacerbated.


Sadly, organic dust and other particles present in agricultural surroundings and on farms may cause severe irritation to the airways of horses, people, and other animals who share the same environment. Both IAD and heaves are illnesses induced by poor air quality. Even persons who are not sensitive to the allergen experience inflammation as a result of this discomfort. Many cases of IAD show little indication of genuine allergic illness, but the more severe condition, heaves, shows unequivocal evidence of an allergic component to the disease.

  • Exposing these horses to moldy hay is an easy way to induce clinical heaves in these individuals.
  • Horses suffering with IAD, on the other hand, frequently show no indications of allergy as all.
  • Contrary to popular belief, many agricultural laborers and individuals who live or work in dusty surroundings (such as animal farms, cotton mills, carpentry shops or landscaping) are susceptible to developing asthma without having an associated allergy illness.
  • Unfortunately for horses, many of their jobs require them to live in conditions that are neither healthy for horse lungs nor healthy for people’s lungs.
  • It is possible to find living germs in the air that may be breathed in many indoor venues.
  • Some barns use diesel engines to haul manure or hay carts, which is why some tractors use diesel engines.
  • Similarly, air pollution has this effect, and regrettably, because of how the wind blows, even seemingly pristine portions of New England can be contaminated by pollution that originates in other parts of the country, for example, in the Midwest.
  • If you’ve ever questioned what this is doing to your own lungs, it’s probably a good idea to be a bit concerned about them.
  • One of our laboratory’s studies (Mazan 2009) found that individuals spending more than 10 hours a day (including weekends) in a horse barn have a significantly elevated risk (up to ten times greater) of acquiring respiratory symptoms comparable with asthma.
  • We have recently discovered in our laboratory (Houtsma 2015) and from other researchers that a sickness comparable to the scenario in children can either induce or aggravate the condition.

It’s possible that certain horses are predisposed to IAD from birth, but this hasn’t been shown. This is because anything that causes inflammation, such as a viral respiratory infection, has the potential to start off a vicious cycle that culminates in IAD or heaves.

Pathogenesis and Pathophysiology

IAD and heaves are linked by airway inflammation, which is a common factor. It is believed that neutrophils are responsible for the inflammation seen on the bronchoalveolar lavage or BAL (see below) in horses with heaves, but in horses with IAD, the cells responsible for the inflammation may be neutrophils, mast cells or a mix of the two. As opposed to cats and humans who suffer from asthma, horses seldom have large numbers of eosinophils in their airways as a result of their immune system responding to an inciting inflammatory cell.

  • Horses suffering with heaves experience an increase in smooth muscle, fibrous tissue, epithelial tissue, and mucus in their airways, all of which contributes to the considerable bronchoconstriction (narrowing of the airways) that leads in irregular breathing and air hunger in the horse.
  • When horses suffer from chronic, long-term airway dysfunction, such as heaves, they are more likely to develop aberrant breathing patterns while at rest.
  • An exaggerated appearance in a bodybuilder results from misuse of certain muscles, and the same can be said for a horse with heaves, which results from abuse of specific muscles when breathing.
  • We know this because of experiments conducted in our laboratory, which showed that these horses burn the same number of calories as if they were running around all day and night.
  • The fine tracings of alveoli and a wide open bronchiole may be seen in this sample taken from a typical horse.
  • Even while we know very little about the pathophysiology of IAD, we do know that they create abnormal amounts of mucus, which we can observe on endoscopy and BAL cytology, among other things.
  • According to the findings of a recent study, the airways of the great majority of horses who are actively racing exhibit neutrophilic inflammation of the small airways as well as smooth muscle hyperplasia.

There is a moderate quantity of mucus in the airway. In BAL cytology, a swirling mucus is observed.

Why does it matter?

It’s not difficult to comprehend why heaves are important to a horse. An afflicted horse’s quality of life and athletic ability are obvious when heaves-affected horses are unable to go from their stable to their paddock on their own. But what about the horse who has IAD, you might wonder. If IAD consisted just of a cough and the occasional drippy nose, it would be irritating, but not dangerous. The difficulty, however, is that IAD has a negative impact on athletic performance. When horses’ airways are restricted, they have difficulty getting enough air out of their bodies, which eventually results in unequal ventilation of the lungs.

During exercise, hypoxia (low blood oxygen levels) results as a result of this.

Furthermore, there is accumulating evidence that horses suffering from IAD are at a significantly increased risk of acquiring the more serious illness known as heaves in the future.

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