COUGH on the horse

What to do if the horse coughs …

Cough is the second most common disease in horses after joint problems. A cough develops very quickly, especially in winter. Even if it is often just a harmless cough, you should not wait too long for the vet to clarify it. Because even a harmless, untreated cough can quickly develop into a chronic cough.

The vet will determine whether it is an infection of the upper or lower respiratory tract acts. The treatment and any medication are based on this.

At the beginning of the disease, the cough usually occurs only rarely and usually under stress. Sometimes accompanied by a transparent or slightly yellowish, viscous discharge from the nose. The horses tire more quickly and often breathe more often, both at work and when they are resting. The longer this condition persists, the more severe the symptoms become and there is a risk that the horse’s cough will develop into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COB or COPD).

Can support treatment at the vet Herbal mixes have a positive effect on the disease. Herbs such as ribwort, marshmallow, horehound or Icelandic moss have a special effect on them respiratory tract of our favorites.

Timely feeding of such Herbal mixes may even avoid the administration of antibiotics in the case of mild to moderate disease.

When is a cough chronic?

Chronic obstructive bronchitis (COB) is divided into two subcategories and is therefore an umbrella term for

-) IAD inflammatory airway disease – Inflammatory respiratory disease with impaired performance from a non-infectious cause; the horse suffers from occasional coughs – complete cure is possible.

-) RAO recurrent airway obstruction – Recurrent airway obstruction. It is a non-infectious respiratory disease with impaired performance. The horses cough continuously, even when they are resting. Usually an allergic cause is suspected here – a cure is excluded, but the symptoms can be treated.

Many horses suffer from problems with the Airways – Chronic obstructive bronchitis is only spoken of when the disease lasts for several weeks or months and other diseases can be ruled out.


Causes of Cough and COB

External (exogenous) factors contributing to the development of cough and others Respiratory diseases Mainly dust, mold, cold, ammonia, infectious diseases caused by viruses or fungi. Internal (endogenous) factors are often cardiovascular problems, toxins, metabolic imbalances or infections.

Most of the time, the causes lie in the poor keeping and feeding of the horses. Bad ventilation in stables, increased ammonia concentration and dusty litter are a burden immune system and the lungs. Especially in the winter months, our darlings spend more than half of the day in the cold, dark stable (in contrast to the summer months, where the horses can ideally spend most of their time outdoors). In addition, many horses are not exercised sufficiently in the winter months and may be covered too early or even unnecessarily.

But not only mechanical causes can trigger this annoying disease. Experts have shown that a horse’s tendency to develop chronic bronchitis is hereditary.


How can you counteract a cough or even chronic obstructive bronchitis? The following points can be checked and observed relatively easily by the horse owner:

  • Horses should get enough exercise in the fresh air. Paddocks or winter paddocks should be available here.
  • The bedding and the quality of the hay should be carefully checked. If the hay is dusty, it should be steamed or slightly moistened. Mold in the hay or in the silage is of course taboo! Mold has an adverse effect on that respiratory tract as well as the Digestive tract and the immune system of the horse.
  • Dust should be avoided at all costs. Cleaning the horses, sweeping the stable alley or shaking up the hay all contribute to increased dust levels in the stable. Remove cobwebs from the box regularly, as they consist of protein compounds and are therefore highly allergenic.
  • High quality mineral feed and Herbal mixes can help your horse to strengthen the immune system, especially in the winter months.
  • Make sure you get enough exercise! Exercise helps to “ventilate” the bronchi and lungs and keep them healthy.
  • Do not cover your horse unnecessarily or too early and take the cover off at every possible opportunity.
  • Consult a veterinarian immediately at the first signs of a prolonged cough!

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