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So Your Horse Has a Cough...

Heaves is a persistent condition that affects the lungs of horses. It is a similar condition to COPD in people. It occurs due to an inflammatory reaction from particles found in the horse's environment. When a horse inhales these particles, the small airways in the horse's lungs narrow and eventually become obstructed.

How can you tell your horse has heaves?

  • Coughing

  • Labored breathing

  • Increased breathing rate

  • Nasal discharge

  • Flaring the nostrils

  • Exercise intolerance

What should you do?

  • Do have your horse examined by a veterinarian.

  • Depending on the severity of the case, your horse may need certain medical treatments to help ease your horse's breathing.


  • It is best if a horse can be kept outside as much as possible.

  • Hay should be wetted down or soaked prior to feeding to help decrease dust and mold exposure.

  • If your horse is kept in a sandy area, the ground should be wetted down to prevent dust from being kicked up.

Take Home Message

  • There is NO cure for heaves, but it can be controlled.

  • Once your horse is diagnosed, this condition will need to be managed for the rest of your horse's life.

  • Heaves is a PROGRESSIVE disease and can be life limiting.

  • Damage to the horse's lung can become irreversible, and will continue to worsen if left untreated.

  • BUT!!! The sooner you can get your horse's heaves under control, the easier it will be to manage.

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