Help For Horses With Heaves

Heaves, technically known as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), is chronic inflammatory lung disease in horses that are sensitive to organic particles in dust; this includes molds and pollen often found around the farm.

Similar to asthma in humans, heaves can run the gamut from just a cough to being severe enough that a horse must work hard just to breathe, even at rest. Once a horse develops RAO, he is more susceptible to flare ups. However, changes to how a horse with heaves is managed can greatly help him return to normal breathing—and continue to breathe easily.

  • Wet the horse’s hay; even if it’s of good quality, it still contains mold spores and dust. Steaming hay is also an option, as is switching entirely to cubed hay or a pelleted ration
  • Don’t feed round bales; a horse will stick his whole face in the hay, breathing in dust
  • Increase his time outside so he’s out of a dusty barn
  • Move the horse to a stall near a door or window away from an attached indoor arena or hay area
  • Turn out horses while blowing or sweeping aisles, decobwebbing and cleaning and rebedding stalls
  • Bed on a material that is as dust-free as possible (not straw)
  • Open doors and windows to keep the barn well-ventilated
  • Add an omega-3 fatty supplement to the RAO-affected horse’s diet

Read more at EQUUS.

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