Equine Asthma

Equine Asthma

Equine asthma, commonly known as "heaves," is a serious condition that affects a significant percentage of horses, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. From young athletic horses to older companions, this condition can impact their quality of life and performance. It can often be triggered by environmental factors such as dust and pollen.

Implementing a regular monitoring program can aid in the early detection and management of equine asthma, optimizing treatment outcomes for affected horses. It is crucial for horse owners to recognize the indicators, manage the problem effectively, and provide the necessary treatment to keep their equine companions healthy and active. Carter Veterinary Services explores this condition further and offers solutions.

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Horses Most Susceptible to SEA

Not all horses above the age of seven are at risk for Severe Equine Asthma (SEA). Some findings indicate that certain breeds, such as Lipizzans and Warmbloods, have a genetic predisposition to developing symptoms. Understanding the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the development of breathing problems is essential for identifying at-risk horses.

Collaborating with equine nutritionists and veterinarians can help tailor diet plans to support respiratory health in at-risk horses. By recognizing and monitoring these risk factors, horse owners can take proactive steps to prevent or manage this problem in susceptible animals.

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The Impact of Equine Asthma on the Respiratory System

This condition is characterized by chronic inflammation and constriction of the lower airways in horses. The inflamed airway walls, muscle contractions, and mucus buildup in the airways hinder the airflow to the alveoli, where gas exchange occurs. This obstruction leads to labored breathing, coughing, and reduced oxygen intake. In advanced cases, fibrotic changes can occur in the lung tissues, further compromising the ability to breathe.

Understanding the physiological changes in the respiratory system of asthmatic horses helps in implementing targeted treatment strategies to alleviate symptoms and improve lung function. Carter Veterinary Services can help you identify this.

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Environmental Management for Asthmatic Horses

Creating a low-dust environment is crucial for managing symptoms effectively. Horses with SEA should have access to clean, well-ventilated stalls, free of airborne allergens like mold spores and particulate matter. Avoiding dry hay, a significant source of aeroallergens is essential for preventing flare-ups.

Implementing turnout strategies that allow asthmatic horses access to well-ventilated pastures can promote respiratory health and reduce the incidence of flare-ups. Using equine-safe air purifiers in barns and stables can further enhance air quality and minimize irritants for affected horses. Owners can opt for hay alternatives like haylage or cubed diets and implement dust-free bedding options to reduce irritants in the horse's environment.

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Medications and Therapies for SEA

While environmental management plays a vital role in managing symptoms, some asthmatic horses may require medications for effective control of the problem. Corticosteroids and bronchodilators are commonly prescribed to reduce airway inflammation and widen the air passages, respectively. Combining these medications can have a synergistic effect in alleviating symptoms and preventing further airway damage. Aside from traditional medications, alternative therapies such as nebulization with saline solutions or herbal supplements may offer additional benefits in managing equine asthma symptoms.

Engaging in physical exercise routines tailored to improve fitness can complement pharmacological treatments and support long-term wellness in horses. Additionally, incorporating omega-3 fatty acids in the horse's diet can help reduce inflammation and support cardiovascular health in horses. It is always good to schedule a veterinarian visit when you have more questions.


Equine asthma is a complex condition that demands attention to detail in terms of diagnosis, management, and treatment. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and options, horse owners can play a proactive role in supporting the health of their beloved companions. Through a combination of environmental modifications, appropriate medications, and dietary adjustments, horses with SEA can lead healthier and more comfortable lives. Call Carter Veterinary Services for more information.

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