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Respiratory Health Tips For Horses

To keep your horse feeling and performing at their best, take preventative steps to protect their respiratory health. Respiratory diseases are the second most common reason horses’ athletic careers are cut short, second only to musculoskeletal disorders.

Common Respiratory Health Issues In Horses
Respiratory issues in horses are often caused by viral or bacterial infections that can spread from horse to horse.
Equine influenza virus, equine herpesvirus, and strangles are just a few of the highly contagious respiratory infections that affect horses. Make sure your horse is up to date on vaccines and follow proper biosecurity protocol. Quarantine new horses and those who have returned from traveling before letting them interact with other horses in the stable.
Not all equine respiratory issues are contagious. Some are caused by poor air quality. Keep your horse’s stable clean and well ventilated to prevent breathing issues.

Improve Air Quality For Respiratory Health
Your horse’s wastes break down and produce ammonia, which puts a strain on your horse’s airways. By using the right bedding material and changing it often, you can manage the ammonia level in your horse’s stable.
Every type of bedding seems to have pros and cons. Straw and wood shavings are cheap and available just about anywhere, but they may not be absorbent enough to control ammonia, and they can release dust and mold particles into the air.
Peat moss is more absorbent, but it can be expensive and hard to find depending on where you live and the time of year. Paper shavings, wood pellets, and compost are other alternatives to straw that you may be able to source affordably. You can also line your horse’s stall with a thick rubber mat so you will not need to use as much bedding material.
Another way to prevent ammonia buildup in your horse’s stable is to make sure it is well ventilated. Windows or vents can circulate the air in the stable. If the stable does not have adequate ventilation, you can use ceiling fans or wall-mounted fans to improve airflow.
Muck out your horse’s stall 1-2 times per day. It’s best to clean when your horse is turned out to pasture so they do not inhale any dust or irritants that may be released into the air while you clean. Deep clean and sanitize at least once a week.

Respiratory Symptoms To Watch Out For
Symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge, especially if yellow or green, can indicate a respiratory infection or irritation. You should also watch out for lethargy, anorexia, swollen lymph nodes, or fever, especially if concurrent with other symptoms.
Practice checking your horse’s vital signs when they are well. Measure their baseline heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate. That way, if they are ever ill, you will know what is outside of their norm.
Isolate your horse and call your equine veterinarian right away when you notice signs of a respiratory issue.