QUESTION: Just like last spring (June), my 5 year old gelding has developed a bad cough with runny nose and eyes. The mucous from his eyes and nose is yellow and thick. I think he has "Heaves" but my Vet says no. Does my horse have Heaves from feeding bad hay for a couple of days last winter? He is now out on green pasture? And why two years in a row if it is just a bad cold, like my Vet says? My other horse is fine and eats and lives in the same place? This seems to start after the Vet gives him his yearly shots at this time of year?

First you need to read one of my articles on my website. Click here to go back. www.horse-dog-advice.com Then click on OUR ARCHIVES.  "Runny Noses And Coughs.

A lot of things don't add up for your horse having COPD (Heaves). First, Heaves does not produce purulent mucous from the eyes.

Heaves (COPD)
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease


Heaves is a chronic condition of the lungs. It is brought on by feeding moldy and/or dusty feed to the horse. Also from being stabled indoors in dusty barns or barns that are not cleaned enough with poor ventilation. The dust is present in the air at all times and from the bedding and or poor quality feed.

The Symptoms usually develop gradually, there being a frequent dry wheezing cough, which becomes more pronounced with exercise. Due to the damage of the lungs, inadequate amounts of oxygen are transferred from the lungs to the bloodstream, and therefore horses often appear distressed during exercise. Horses with Heaves have a "Characteristic" respiration where their is a double lift of the flank during expiration of air. This double movement of the flank is an attempt by the animal to remove air form it's lungs.

In the early stages of the condition the horse may appear normal at rest, but as the condition worsens a typical broken-winded breathing appears and is accompanied by a hollow cough.

The main aim of treatment is to improve the horse's environment. if the horse must be stabled, switch from straw bedding to dust free wood shavings and or purchase bundles of shredded newspaper for bedding. But it is preferable to stable them outside, not inside a barn.

Since horses with Heaves are allergic to various molds and allergens in roughage as well as the dust found in them, it is preferable to switch to feeding cubes if possible. If not possible, then roughages (hay) must be carefully chosen for it's dust free and mold free qualities. The feed should be fed ON THE GROUND or else in an open type feeder (not solid built where dust and allergens cannot disperse) that sits on the ground. This allows the horse to scatter the feed and lets such mold spores, allergens and dust dissipate into the air instead of all up the horses nostrils as it eats. The natural position of the horse eating with his head down also allows the normal flow of droplets from the horses nose to wash the dust/allergens out of it's nose.

For severe cases, the horse can be given a daily oral medication such as "Ventripulum" poured on top of its daily grain ration. This medication relaxes the airways and lungs allowing the horse to breath easier. It is safe to use year round except in pregnant mares. It must be discontinued at least one month before foaling.

Most horses with heaves greatly improve once turned out on green pasture in the spring, summer and fall. With the heaves rapidly returning once started back on roughage (hay) for the winter months. Dampening the feed also works well but is often impossible to do in the winter time.

Although older horses generally show symptoms of Heaves more so than a five year old, that is because of more years being subjected to dust, mold, allergens in their feed. Just being on bad hay for a day or two may have produced a cough already but it would have taken longer than that to start a full blown case of Heaves.

Your horse may have a very slight chance that he is allergic to something in his environment? Weeds, trees, pollens, chemicals, some sort of treatment on posts, fence rails, rubber or plastic feed or water containers, fly bites, etc. as you say, he is getting worse or not improving out on green grass pasture? A slight to non existent chance he is allergic to his yearly vaccinations.

So check out the document under "Our Archives" and watch his flank to check for the characteristic "Double Lift" to his flank if it is Heaves. Not all horses get Heaves from the same feed source that is why both of your horses did not get it.

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