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Top Tips for Managing Respiratory Issues


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Do you have a horse with respiratory issues? Share your favorite management tips in the comments below!

Posted in Health & Nutrition

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5 comments on “Top Tips for Managing Respiratory Issues
  1. Kendall says:

    Last July my horse and I suffered a terrible injury jumping when he fell down on the landing of a jump. After a surgery and several months of rehab, I returned to riding, but decided to retire myself (over 40) and my horse from jumping. I had ridden hunters for 16 years, enjoying nearly every minute until today, when I was turned away from the in-gate (in front of trainers and friends) at a local college equestrian club schooling show. I had no idea–no one told me my entry wasn’t valid because I wasn’t riding in any over fences classes–until I was on my horse ready to enter a flat class (I asked not to be judged, which wasn’t allowed either). I was beyond embarrassed. My question is this: what are riders like me to do when we want to compete, but no longer jump and don’t want to ride dressage tests? Does anyone else experience frustration with this? I was looking forward to riding in hunter shows with my children, but it doesn’t look like that will happen.

  2. Shari says:

    My boy has “seasonal” allergies (Spring/Fall; especially bad in the Spring)that can quickly turn into a nasty respiratory infection. I’ve been treating with steroids on an as-needed basis. HOWEVER, and I need to “knock-on-wood” here… after adding Omega 3 the allergy issue, cough, runny nose & eyes has drastically been reduced! Haven’t had to resort to steroids yet this Spring!

  3. Pat granito says:

    What did Sheri use for omega 3 for horse my paso gets antihistamines everyday in spring and summer she is15 and coughed since age 2 they told me its allergies

  4. alisa b says:

    My boy lakota has the same issuses runny nose cough and if it gets bad he has trouble with breathing so i was wondering what omaga do you recommend and where to buy .thanks for info.

  5. John Clark says:

    Thanks for such information. Its really helpful in maintaining the health of horse.

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