Preventing and effectively treating cough in horses

Respiratory diseasesHorses' respiratory systems are particularly sensitive from experience. Respiratory problems (z.B. cough in horses) account for more than one third of internal diseases! Ca. 20% of all horses are affected by dust allergy.

Unlike humans, horses can only breathe in through the nose and not through the mouth. A large soft palate prevents this. With the help of the chest muscles. The horse breathes in the air through the diaphragm. Via the nasal cavities the inhaled air first reaches the throat. From there it flows through the larynx into the trachea. The trachea branches out in the lungs into smaller and smaller airways – the bronchi and bronchioles. At the end of the bronchioles are the alveoli (air sacs). If all the alveoli were spread out flat, they could cover an area the size of a soccer field. The alveoli are surrounded by a network of tiny blood vessels. Gas exchange can take place through them: Oxygen from the inhaled air enters the blood via the alveoli. Carbon dioxide is released into the air to be exhaled. To ensure that the air reaches the lungs with as little dust and other foreign matter as possible, it is pre-cleaned in the mucous membranes of the sinuses. In addition, the trachea. Bronchi equipped with so-called cilia. These also have a cleansing function. In case of a respiratory infection, the natural cleansing functions of the horse's body are disturbed.

Preventing and effectively treating a horse's cough

Scheme of the respiratory tract

Stable climate
Respiratory diseases in horses occur particularly in the winter months. In the cold season, horses usually have no/ little access to pasture. Therefore less movement in the fresh air. If the horse stable is not sufficiently ventilated, a warm, humid stable climate is created. – A horse releases about six liters of water per day through the skin and respiratory tract. This allows bacteria, viruses and fungi to multiply rapidly and accumulate in the stable air. In addition, microorganisms transform the feces. converts the horse's urine into ammonia. If this is not sufficiently bound by the bedding, a pungent stable odor develops. An irritation of the eyes. respiratory tract of horses can be the result.

Feed hygiene
In addition, horses are fed more hay in winter, which increases the amount of dust in the air they breathe. Inferior quality hay and straw are characterized by contamination and high levels of fungal spores. The intake of health-promoting herbs is not possible due to the lack of access to pasture.

Lack of exercise
Horses are flight and running animals with a highly specialized respiratory system. In order to remain fully functional, the horse's lungs must be regularly stressed and supplied with blood right up to their tips. Lack of exercise limits functional capacity. Accumulations of mucus in the lungs are not cleared away. Can form the breeding ground for disease germs.

Cooling down
When riding, our horses begin to sweat, especially if they have a very pronounced winter coat. The wetness can then lead to rapid cooling of the horse and cold stress. The immune system is weakened. Susceptible to pathogens.

Foal snot
In foals, diseases of the respiratory tract (cough in horses) occur regularly at the age of 3-4 months, similar to the well-known "nursery snot. At this point, the protective gamma globulins from the mare's colostrum are depleted. The foal's immune system begins to develop as a result of normal, biological environmental stimuli.

Acute bronchitis

The cause of acute bronchitis is almost always influenza, reo or herpes viruses. The viral infection leads to inflammatory swellings in the airways. The muscles of the bronchial tubes contract as a result of the disease (bronchospasm), making breathing difficult. In addition, bronchial mucus is often produced in such quantities that the cilia of the bronchial mucosa are overwhelmed with the removal of the mucus. The mucus remains in the respiratory tract. Provides a breeding ground for bacteria. A secondary bacterial infection can be the result. Cough is the leading symptom of bronchitis. At the beginning it is dry and strong. After a few days, the horse's cough becomes moist and nasal discharge occurs. Other symptoms of bronchitis are: Fever, reduced feed intake, dullness as well as a swelling of the lymph nodes in the head area.

If acute bronchitis is not cured within two weeks, it turns into chronic bronchitis. This is known as chronic obstructive bronchitis (COB). Obstruction means that there is a constriction of the smallest bronchial branches. The excessively formed mucus can solidify. The fine cilia of the mucous membranes are permanently damaged. The most common cause of the chronic form is an acute cough that has not been treated consistently, coupled with a too-rapid resumption of exercise. The transition from acute infection to chronic bronchitis is promoted by persistently poor hygienic air conditions in the stable. The symptoms of COB are rather inconspicuous: The horses become tired more quickly during training and then take longer to recover. However, coughing in horses occurs only irregularly – usually during feeding or at the beginning of training. Nasal discharge is often absent. If it is, it is viscous and yellowish in color


In the final stage of COB, the junction between the smallest bronchial branches (bronchioles) and the alveoli (alveoli) is so narrowed by viscous mucus and swelling that a valve effect occurs: air still enters the alveolus (alveolus) during inhalation but cannot be fully exhaled. As the alveoli continue to inflate, they eventually rupture (emphysema). This lung damage is irreparable. Greatly decreases the horse's performance. The horse suffers from respiratory distress. Visibly uses abdominal muscles during breathing.


Respiratory allergies are a form of chronic bronchitis in horses. If the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract are inflamed as a result of an acute infection, the substances in the air can come into close contact with the defense cells. This can cause hypersensitivity with an allergic reaction.

Respiratory allergy is one of the most common types of allergy in horses. Triggering causes are in most cases dust, molds and storage mites. Symptoms may worsen significantly from April to June due to the additional pollen load.

Preventing and effectively treating a horse's cough

recognizable cough in the horse


Rhinitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the nasal mucosa. It is manifested by nasal discharge from one or both of the horse's nostrils. Depending on the cause, the horse's nasal discharge tends to be liquid or rather mucousy. In some cases it also smells unpleasant or is mixed with blood. Rhinitis in horses usually occurs as a concomitant of a bacterial or viral infection of the respiratory system.


Prevention is better than treatment!

First of all, vaccinations against influenza and herpes should be given regularly and on time.

Stable climate
Furthermore, care should be taken to ensure that the horse is exposed to fresh air as often as possible in winter. Outside windows in the stable should always be open, and drafts should of course be avoided.

To protect horses from excessive dust exposure, hay and straw should never be shaken up to horse nose height. Before sweeping the stable aisle, the dust particles on the floor can be removed by moistening (z.B. can be bound by means of a watering can and a shower attachment). When using the indoor arena, dust formation during riding should be prevented by keeping the arena floor sufficiently moist. This can be achieved by a sprinkler system or, if necessary, manually with a garden hose.

To reduce the ammonia load in the stable air, the horse should be given sufficient new bedding every day. During mucking out, however, ammonia usually escapes from the old bedding. This increases the ammonia concentration in the stable air. For this reason, the horses should not be in the box during mucking out. In addition, attention should be paid to the quality of the feed: Earthy. Moldy spots in the bale should be generously removed. If the hay or straw is too dusty and smells musty, it has no business in the horse stall.

Horse riding
Regular exercise is important! In the cold season, however, horses should not be overloaded during training. After riding, it is essential to put a sweat blanket on sweaty horses to prevent the horse's body from cooling down.


Stable climate
If a horse is ill, the first thing to do is to eliminate the cause of the horse's cough and improve the air quality around the horse. Low-dust sawdust can replace the old bedding. Hay should be washed before feeding. As an alternative, hay or grass silage can also be used as roughage. For chronically ill horses, year-round grazing is recommended or. keeping the stable open is ideal. Better air conditions as well as more freedom of movement than with the box attitude affect positively the health of the horse.

Horse cough syrup and other medicines
Treatment with an expectorant, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory horse cough syrup is advisable at any stage of respiratory disease. Treatment with antibiotics should only be considered for bacterial infections. Especially when treating chronic bronchitis with chemical drugs (z.B. cortisone), the recommended dosage must be strictly adhered to. Otherwise, the risk of occurrence of side effects increases (z.B. liver damage).

Each horse is an individual. Some horses are allergic or sensitive to certain substances. Therefore, the ingredients of cough medicines for horses should always be tested before administration. If a horse owner knows the "weak point" of his horse, he should definitely take it into account when choosing the horse cough syrup!

In chronic diseases, adapted, regular work in the fresh air can help to support the self-healing function of the lungs. The lungs are supplied with blood as they work. accumulations of mucus can be loosened. Afterwards be carried off. In addition, changing temperature stimuli in the fresh air strengthen the immune system.

Equine veterinarian
The veterinarian can usually make an accurate diagnosis. Particularly in the case of severe or prolonged symptoms of illness (such as z.B. Coughing in the horse) the advice of a specialist veterinarian should be sought.

The disappearance of respiratory problems can be recognized by the disappearance of the symptoms of the disease. In addition, the recovery of the horse is usually accompanied by an increase in performance.

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