Heaves and Your Horse

Heaves, also known as broken wind or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a devastating disease that affects the respiratory system of a horse.? It is usually caused by ingesting dusty or moldy hay, or being exposed to dust, mold or pollen in bedding and elsewhere in the horse?s environment.? Depending on the length of time that the horse has been exposed to the irritant, their symptoms may be mild or severe.

The usual symptom associated with heaves is a dry cough, particularly one that comes on with exercise.? It can also cause a yellowish nasal discharge and increased or laboured breathing.? In severe cases, the horse may be listless, show loss of appetite due to breathing difficulties, and can even develop what is called a heave line, or a muscular line along the barrel caused by the horse constantly taking a double exhalation.

There is no cure for heaves.? Once diagnosed, the best options are to minimize the horse?s contact with respiratory irritants.? This can be accomplished by feeding good quality hay that is neither dusty nor moldy, and also keeping the horse in an extremely well ventilated environment.? Many horses with heaves are best kept out of stables and instead housed outside.? This is a chronic condition that causes gradual damage to the lungs, so good stable management can halt the disease in its tracks.? Depending on your horse?s situation, your veterinarian may also prescribe drugs or natural remedies to assist your horse with his breathing.? Many horses with a mild form of heaves are able to carry an almost normal workload.? However, it is important to remember that if your horse is diagnosed with heaves, he will always be at risk for further lung damage.


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