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Coughing in horses: don’t overlook the importance of prevention Logo PaskaCheval

Maybe you’ve noticed that your horse’s breathing seems different or laboured. He’s not in top condition and he’s coughing. What should you do? Just like people, horses can cough. If ignored, a cough can impair your horse’s performance or cause irreversible chronic damage. Coughs have various causes and treatments; that’s why early management is crucial in order to relieve strain on the horse’s respiratory system.

First of all, coughing causes discomfort for your horse. In its acute phases, a cough may even make him intolerant to exercise. In the long term, there may be alternating acute and chronic phases. Ignoring these symptoms can have irreversible effects on your horse’s respiratory system.

It is important not to confuse dry coughs, wet coughs and sinusitis in horses 

In a wet or productive cough, there is mucus secretion in the airways. Mucus helps the body eliminate pathogens in the event of a viral or bacterial infection as in the case of strangles, for example. It can also help the horse expel “foreign bodies” in the event of allergic reactions:

  • Pollen: depending on the season, horses on pasture may be prone to allergies linked to pollen.
  • Dust: in a box stall, dust is more common and depends on the straw or wood shavings used or the way the stables operate.
  • Mould: the presence of mould depends on the choice of concentrates and hay.
Flow through the nostrils

wet cough should not be confused with a nasal discharge. A discharge may be watery and serous, thick and mucous, purulent or blood-streaked, but it is not necessarily accompanied by a cough. Sinusitis related to a dental infection, for instance, causes a discharge not associated with a cough.

dry cough, without any mucus production, is usually caused by a virus, such as influenza, or an allergy. This type of cough is generally due to inflammation in the upper airways. Examples include laryngitis or tracheitis. A dry cough may precede a wet cough.

Emphysema is a well-known example of a chronic respiratory disease. It is also known as “heaves”, “broken wind”, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This disease is very often caused by an allergy (to dust, fungus, etc.). It causes a chronic dry - and sometimes wet cough. Acute phases are known as acute episodes of heaves.

Preventing emphysema and chronic diseases

Preventing the development of these diseases in horses as far as possible is thus absolutely essential. Here is what our experts advise:

  • Provide horses with good-quality hay and feed in general to prevent exposure to dust and mould.
  • For stabled horses, pay careful attention to straw quality. The best solution for the most sensitive horses is to switch to low-dust bedding (wood shavings, for example).
  • Also try to prevent horses breathing in ammonia from urine. This is particularly harmful to the airways. Regular mucking-out and bedding changes are always essential. The use of drying conditioners prevents the gas from being released in excessive quantities.

Inhalers or expectorants to curb inflammation caused by coughing

For dry coughs, it is important to curb inflammation in the part of the airways concerned whenever it first develops. An inhaler may be used. This delivers a high concentration of active substances into the lungs. For wet coughs, use supplements with expectorant effects to promote the elimination of mucus from the airways.

All these manifestations put a significant strain on the immune system, particularly in the event of infection. It is therefore necessary to protect or boost your horse’s immunity, either preventively or immediately when respiratory problems first develop. To do this, make sure your horse’s diet contains enough vitamins and trace elements. Even in horses with well-balanced diets, it may sometimes be beneficial to give occasional supplements.

Above all, always be quick to react and anticipate. The manifestations, causes and consequences of coughs in horses require an appropriate response. The Paskacheval range includes bedding conditioners and plant-based supplements to ensure a balanced diet and support your horse’s immunity and respiratory system. Find all our products at your nearest distributor.

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