All about airways

By Your Horse

Seasonal guides

06 January 2012 09:47

Coughs, colds and sneezes are common in the stable yard over winter. Stale stable air and bringing horses close together allows rapid spread of disease and resurgence of allergies. 

There are numerous viral infections that cause respiratory disease in horses.  Equine influenza outbreaks still occur regularly in the UK so don’t assume it would never happen to your horse. It’s highly contagious and all horses should be given an annual vaccine to keep flu outbreaks to a minimum.

Equine Herpes virus (EHV-1,4) is responsible for many a cough or snotty nose. Some strains cause abortion in mares and can affect the nervous system causing paralysis (although this is more rare). There is a vaccine available which needs to be given every six months.

Recurrent airway obstruction (also known as COPD) is far more common in the winter. RAO is often caused by an allergy to fungal spores inhaled from dust in bedding and forage. The signs are a dry cough and increased effort to breathe. Ideally horses who suffer from RAO should be turned out as much as possible and fed haylage or hay soaked for more than 30 minutes to reduce the inhaled spores.  Use a low dust bedding.