Oh how beautiful they are, the cheesy Winter Wonderland Facebook posts featuring sugared-up fluffy ears, walking toward a snowy dreamscape. Do you also have to admire these pictures with a rather heavy heart? There you are not alone! Many Perde owners can't enjoy great rides in the snow because the horse is constantly coughing or can't be ridden at all….
This article reveals what man/woman can do to support horses' respiratory systems in winter.
The respiratory tract of the horse is by nature strong and very "reactive
Basically, a distinction is made between upper (nostrils, nasal cavities, nasal passage, larynx, trachea) and lower (bronchi, lungs) "airways". Horses were originally fed a wide range of. As flight animals they are trimmed to live in front of natural enemies. To flee potential dangers as quickly as possible. Their ability to react is therefore very well developed, which is also reflected in the respiratory system of the horses, because on the run the horse's lungs had to give maximum performance. By nature, the "horse's lung" is a very strong, adaptable organ that is able to perform at its best at the push of a button. In order to keep a horse's lower respiratory tract as functional as possible, it should also be regularly exposed to. The modern, domesticated horse often does not have such stimuli, which is why the lungs become less efficient, but on the other hand are exposed to higher allergen loads. One often hears that "modern frippery", such as hay steaming, only "softens" the horses. However, one must not forget that due to the evolution of horses as steppe animals, the horse lungs should be able to cope with normal environmental dust relatively easily. However, hay dust is usually not (just) normal environmental dust, but rather consists of a large number of respirable micro particles (mainly fungal spores, but also bacteria, mites, etc.).), which have a very high allergenic potential. What is meant by this is that such "fungal dust" is capable of causing allergies bwz. trigger reactions. On this kind of "dust" is. Was a horse (just as little as a human) aligned. To this kind of "dust" is. Was a horse (just as little as a human) aligned. Therefore, hay steaming does not "soften" but rather protects your horse from the risk of developing such allergies or. it supports feeding management in animals that are already sick. The general immune defense as well as the stress on the respiratory tract are only permanently reduced if a horse is kept away from environmental conditions to which it is currently too oriented – such as fresh, albeit cold air or drafts.
Housing conditions are central: force fresh air, minimize dust exposure
Many articles have already reported on this topic in recent weeks, so we don't want to bore you and "go through" everything another time, but keep it as short as possible. Our experience has shown that – as far as the husbandry conditions are concerned – a multitude of small factors often come together, which then trigger the coughing malaise.
How to give your horse a cough
Make sure you get as much exercise in the fresh air as possible. Fresh air is not only good for the horse's lungs per se. Thermoreizures are important for the horse's immune system as a whole, stimulating blood circulation as well as metabolism. But for all the effort and good will, there are days when a paddock walk (depending on the conditions in the particular barn) sometimes poses too great a danger (icy, uneven paddocks, storm). In these times above all also the horse owner is in demand, in order to compensate for the missing Koppelgang with much, easy movement at the hand or under the saddle.
– Especially in winter, when opportunities for outdoor exercise are often limited(er), care must be taken to ensure that the Roughage (hay/haylage/straw) of perfect quality is. Especially fungal spores in the hay, but also respirable particles (bacteria, mites) can trigger allergic reactions and represent one of the greatest potential dangers for the horse's lungs. Many horse owners therefore steam the roughage to destroy the allergens in the hay. Hay steaming is a particularly effective solution for minimizing dust in the horse stall. Not only does the (outdated) method of soaking cause an explosion of germ counts in the soaked feed after a short time, but the digestive system and detoxification organs can also be severely stressed by the "germ soup". (You can find an interesting article on hay steaming here. By conviction, we have the best hay steaming equipment on the market in our assortment. Click here for our Haygain hay vaporizers.)
Make sure you have fresh, low-dust air in the barn and hall, too. When it gets cold and windy, you often see stable doors, windows and riding stable gates closed. Good airing helps to remove the dust. But not only the dust, but above all the humidity produced by the air the horses breathe is sent out by the window. This is good, because a warm and humid stable climate is problematic, as this provides optimal growth conditions for germs.
Preventive measures to prevent coughing
If you look at these three points, you can see relatively quickly how quickly even small changes in housing conditions in winter can trigger the coughing problem in total: less paddock walking, less work, more box time, no green fodder in the paddocks, therefore more (possibly dusty) hay… All this means: less fresh air with greatly increased (fungal) dust exposure, but also, for example, higher ammonia exposure! Increased intake of germ- and pollutant-laden air overwhelms the immune system of the "fresh-air-dependent" horse. (If you are interested in the topic "Strengthening the Immune System", just click here. In addition, we have an exciting article in our advice corner on the subject of "detoxification".)
The lungs are strained, and over time may well become overloaded. Pathogens can no longer be effectively combated or treated. it is no longer possible to react properly to allergens, which can lead to infections and allergic reactions with the onset of coughing. The mucous membranes are permanently irritated, inflammation with mucus formation, up to pneumonia with fever, can be the result. If such a condition is left untreated, chronic respiratory diseases can result.
Often unclear: when to call the vet for a cough?
Calling the veterinarian for every little scuffle seems excessive to many horse owners. However, there are also voices that say there is no cough that can be said with certainty to be harmless. I think you have to agree with this. In any case, coughing is considered the leading symptom of respiratory diseases. It can be productive (moist/with sputum) or non-productive (dry/without sputum). Sometimes a horse that is already suffering from more severe respiratory problems does not cough at all. Or a horse coughs from time to time, but it is really "only" a harmless coughing irritation (such as an irritation of the upper respiratory tract caused by dust, vapors, dry/cold air, etc.). Symptoms in respiratory disease are too varied to make general statements. Here are some indicators for which you should definitely consult a veterinarian immediately:
Fever: we measured the temperature in the anus with the help of a commercial clinical thermometer. The normal temperature for an adult horse is between 37.3 – 38.4 °C. From a body temperature of approx. 39,5°C is called high fever. The normal temperature in foals is generally a little higher and is around 38.0 – 39.0 °C.
Nasal discharge: whether yellowish/yellowish-greenish, bloody or white-watery nasal discharge – here an exact diagnosis by a veterinarian is absolutely necessary! Swollen lymph nodes can be signs of (dangerous) infectious diseases – the vet has to be called in, for the protection of you and all other horses in the stable! – Abdominal breathing / shortness of breath / rales during breathing – Regular coughing
This is an exemplary and not exhaustive list of symptoms for which you should urgently contact a veterinarian or a veterinary surgeon. should go to an equine clinic. The consequences of a skipped infection or cough, can be serious! Therefore it can be said: it is better to call the vet once too often (and ignore any "eye-rolling" of stable colleagues), than to ignore a respiratory disease and risk a severe course of infection or a chronic respiratory disease (damping off, RAO, COPD/COB). The veterinarian will decide on indicated therapy after careful diagnosis. Decide on a possible drug treatment.
Many kinds of herbs, algae and fruits are grown for strong lungs
High-quality herbs, plants and fruits can serve the horse's respiratory tract well. Together they can strengthen the horse lungs nutritionally, so that they can cope with higher loads. Vitamin C, blueberry or rosehip support healthy respiratory ties. Ginger, schisandra berries, turmeric, and rosemary also promote lung health maintenance. Essential oils (such as clove oil or eucalyptus oil) stimulate the natural expulsive functions of the respiratory tract. Many of the above or. Herbs are also valuable antioxidants. Thus ensure an intact immune system. A high quality combination of herbs, which have antioxidant as well as other good properties, can support clean, healthy lungs and optimal respiratory performance. Thus horse lungs have a better chance to remain efficient also in times of higher load. When supplementing herbs, it is especially important to choose a quality product that is scientifically based. So you can be sure that only those herbs are included, which are actually suitable for horses. Also, of course, the right concentrations are central!
The high quality, from veterinarians& NAF products, developed by renowned horse nutritionists, are composed of the best ingredients from nature. The special NAF respiratory recipes contain a variety of valuable herbs, algae and fruits. NAF Respirator, available in powder or liquid form, is designed to support the entire respiratory tract and the mucous membranes. These include milk thistle seeds, ginkgo leaves, schisandra berries, hawthorn, blueberries, rose hip peels, dandelion leaves, turmeric, chlorella (dried), ginger, rosemary and licorice. NAF Respirator Boost, the liquid supplement of choice when quick support is needed, contains most of the above herbs as extracts, plus oregano, echinacea, clove oil and eucalyptus oil. NAF Easy Breathing, with marshmallow leaves, anise, garlic (dried), nettle, barberry bark, ginkgo leaves and ginger provides nutritional balance for nutrient-poor pastures. It replaces what horses would choose for themselves in the wild and thus supports healthy respiratory tract. The soothing syrup, NAF Kof Eze, contains peppermint and tea tree oil and can be used if your horse is particularly sensitive – i.e. has an irritating cough – to environmental dust in the upper respiratory tract.