Respiratory issues can be difficult to diagnose, treat, and manage, but with the right plan you can help your horse breathe easier. In this blog I’ll share my top tips for keeping your horse’s respiratory system healthy and managing issues.
About two and a half years ago, my mare Luna was diagnosed with small airway inflammatory disease or SAID. This condition causes coughing and exercise intolerance, and is considered a precursor to Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO) or heaves. While this is an incurable condition, the right management along with a veterinary treatment plan can help minimize issues and further progression.
Here are the top 3 things that I have found help Luna breathe easy:
- Soak hay
Hay can be a major issue for horses with respiratory issues, since it is a significant source of dust. All of Luna’s hay is soaked before feeding, and this has really helped to limit her exposure to irritants. Some horses may not be able to eat hay at all, and alternatives such as Dengie (chopped hay) or hay pellets may be necessary. Luna’s grain also gets a quick spritz of water just before feeding to eliminate dust in her feed pan as well.
- Minimize dust
Dust is the enemy of the horse with respiratory issues, and anything that can be done to reduce the amount of exposure to dust will likely help. For Luna, we do a few things to achieve this goal. First, she lives outside the majority of the time, and this helps immensely. Barns are a huge source of dust, especially when hay is stored inside, shavings are used in stalls, and aisles are being swept. When Luna does come inside due to inclement weather, we wet down her shavings lightly to help keep any dust down. Lastly, arena footing can be a significant source of dust. Watering your arena and applying dust-control products is an important investment to protect your horse’s lung health.
- Supplemental support
Depending on the severity of your horse’s condition, your veterinarian may prescribe medications such as anti-inflammatories or bronchodilators. In addition to any treatment your vet recommends, a respiratory supplement provides ingredients to help support normal lung function and soothe your horse’s airways. Luna receives SmartBreathe Pellets in her SmartPaks every day, and this addition to her program has helped to maintain her respiratory health on a daily basis.
Do you have a horse with respiratory issues? Share your favorite management tips in the comments below!