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  1. #1
    Veteran Paint it Lucky's Avatar
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    Unhappy Help, my horse has a cough

    My old horse started coughing a few days ago when I was riding him, he was fine in walk then when I asked him to trot he coughed a few times, then again when I later asked him to canter. The next day he was simialr although worse Today I just took him for a walk to see how he was and he coughed a few times just when walking, and quite badly, almost like he had something stuck in his throat. I am quite worried about him. He doesn't seem to do it at any other time, only when ridden, he doesn't cough in the field or stable. And it has come on very suddenly so I don't think it is dust related as nothing in his environment has changed. I wonder if maybe he got too cold one night and has caught a cold? He seems fine in every other way, though I did mean to take his temperature today but forgot the thermometer! His nose is a bit gunky after he's coughed. Has anyone any ideas what could be wrong? Can horses get coughs like humans do and is there anything I can give him to soothe it/make it better? I tried calling the vets but only get the emergency line now as it's the weekend and don't know that this counts as an emergency. I don't know what to do, any advice greatly appreciated.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Help, my horse has a cough

    when u say gunk came out of his nose - wat colour? just fluid or was their solid bits in it, like food or pus or just lumpy bits? did it smell? was there any blood in it (not to scare u just asking!) ?

    And when he coughs, is it when u start exercising then it goes away after a bit or is it consistently whilst you exercise?

    What does he get fed?

    maybe over the weekend just soak his hay before feeding him to minimize dust etc to try to minimise aggrevating hi throat.

    I would take his temperature and if you have stetoscope (dont know if you would do....) listen to his heart, you should hear 2 or 3 heart sounds either going : Lub - Dub or Le Lub Dub... anything else may be abnormal and you should note this when you call the vet on monday (unless obviously everything gets better over the weekend! )

    Also feel down his throat (externally!) from the underside of his jaw, and down the front of his throat, does this stimulate a cough? if so where? and can you feel any bulges (other than the tracheal cartilage rings?) that would stand out to you as being "abnormal" such as a piece of carrot that might be stuck(compare it to how your throat feels.) ?

    Hope this gives you some ideas of where to start

  3. #3
    Veteran Paint it Lucky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help, my horse has a cough

    Thanks Lucy,

    The 'gunk' round his nostrils is sort of whitey/cream but quite thick, but no signs of blood or food in it. And not massive ammounts of it either, just a little bit round his nostrils after he's coughed.

    When I was riding him he'd cough for a bit when we started to trot, then seemed ok, then later would cough again, then not then later cough again etc. At some points he would seem like he had something stuck in his throat as he would turn his neck upside down when coughing (haven't explained that very well!), I did check his neck over but couldn't feel anything abnormal in his throat and doing this didn't make him cough.

    I have been gining him soaked hay though this has made no difference so far. His normal hay is not dusty anyway and has never made him cough before, and as this cough has come on so suddenly i don't think it is the hay.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Help, my horse has a cough

    It takes much more to make a horse cough than it does a human. By the time a horse coughs there is some form of respiratory disease/dysfunction.

    He may have a virus or it could be related to his environment- even if hes not done it before. As lucy sugests, take his temperature and if its raised call the vet asap.

    Otherwise feed hay and hard feed from the floor to help the discharge drain. Dont ride him (puts extra strain on the respiratory system) and turnout as much as possible. I would ring the vet first thing monday if theres no improvement.

  5. #5
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    Unhappy Re: Help, my horse has a cough

    I'm very interested in this thread as I have a coughing horse too.
    Long story:
    3 yrs ago she came to my yard, contracted a virus and had cough/stotty nose for a couple of months.
    The next year, she came back and was fine (being prepared to event). I made the mistake of not cooling her down properly after a xc school and the next day she was coughing again, snotty nose 3 days later.
    Last year she cameback (again!) and managed a whole season's eventing. However, she would always cough when starting working in for the dressage (or after a journey in the lorry - which has good ventilation, no bedding etc) and then cough again after the XC. She did not have the snoty nose this time and was always in fine spirits.
    This year she has come back again and been fine until her first event. She is on top form, very fit and spooking/bouncing all over the place but when working in for the dressage she coughed 5 times. No coughs for the rest of the day until after the finish of the XC. The next day she was fine, schooled the next with one cough, hacked the next with several coughs and then today coughed whenever in trot. Is now out in the field, coughing during her frequent gallop/buck sessions.
    She does not cough when in the stable, has no snot and is feeling on top form in every other way.
    She has been scoped etc in the past and frequest blood tests. All vets say she is fine, no virus, bleeding etc.
    Am at a loss as to how to help her.

    Any bright ideas?

  6. #6
    Old nag Box_Of_Frogs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help, my horse has a cough

    If it isn't a virus (and I'd expect maybe a few horses on a yard to have a similar cough if it is a virus) then sadly it might be RAO/COPD caused by (at this time of year) an allergy to tree pollens. The tree pollen count is very high at the moment and in susceptible horses it will cause the same symptoms as hay/dust allergies. You may only hear the coughing on exercise simply because the horse's lungs get progressively more damaged with every epxosure and this is exacerbated even further as the horse ages. When exercised, the horse's body needs much more oxygen than when it is at rest so he will start to breathe more deeply. If his airways are norrowed and inflamed, he will be unable to get enough oxygen into his body and will start to cough. I'd be very very careful at that point because, as with humans, if you suddenly can't get enough air into your lungs, you can get in deep, deep trouble very fast. My horse suffers from RAO due to tree pollen, when it is known as Summer Pasture Allergy. Last year, on top of his RAO, a chesty virus went round the yard and he contracted that. The upshot of this was that he got very ill and at one point I was walking him up a gentle slope to the school and he suddenly stopped and began to gasp for air. Very scary let me tell you! You need to contact your vets as soon as possible to get to the bottom of this. If it is Summer Pasture Allergy, you can manage the problem with care but your horse will always have it. PM me if you need any more info x


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  7. #7
    Veteran Paint it Lucky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help, my horse has a cough

    Thanks for replying everyone.

    Box of frogs, now I am worried! He has just moved into a field with trees round it so maybe this is it? He is 22 years old and has never had anything like this before (other than the odd cough at dusty hay but this is different). I gave him a day off today, he coughed once just standing in his box and his breathing sounded slightly weasy. I have given him some cough medicine in the hope it will help a bit. If he's not better by monday I'll get the vet out. Took his temperanture and that was fine and he seems well otherwise, jogged dwon to the field this morning.

  8. #8
    Old nag Box_Of_Frogs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help, my horse has a cough

    Cough mixtures will only temprarily soothe a sore throat hun. They won't help at all if it is a cough caused by narrowed airways and excess mucus from an airborne allergen. I'd keep a careful eye on the situation - maybe note coughing episodes in your diary? If it gets worse or becomes regular then you need the vet. What would raise a flag for me is a) your horse's breathing sounding wheezy when at rest in the stable and b) his temperature is normal (would probably have been raised if it was a virus). It might help to note if his breathing rate and/or pulse rate is elevated.


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  9. #9

    Default Re: Help, my horse has a cough

    Hello AllySmalice,

    Your chap sounds exactly like my elderly cob, who's middle name is Allergy! He's not been diagnosed with COPD but his airway is definitely compromised, and without doubt if he's presented with the wrong allergens he gets an asthmatic response.

    His herd pal (who has no respect for electric fence) crashed through into our haystore last Thursday night where there was a pile of baaaaaaaad hay, and he followed with due diligence and ate the lot. Next morning, he was wheezing like an old puffer train and coughing like an old smoker with heaves lines on each side of his ribcage.

    The best tip I can give you is to steam his hay - or give him haylage only - he never ever coughs on haylage. I can't recommend steaming to you enough though, especially as haylage is far from cheap. I simply can't give him dry hay, and soaked hay doesn't seem to sort him either, plus because he has a very well educated palate, he pouts if all the yummy sugars have been leached out of his hay by soaking.

    It's really easy to do - don't go to the trouble of buying an expensive steamer - get a wheelie bin (we use our green one as we never do gardening), drill a 1" hole near the bottom and fill the bin with your hay. Now plug in a 20 wallpaper steamer from B&Q or similar and steam for 40mins-ish or until the water's gone. Wheel your bin into his stable, tip over and fork out the lovely steamed hay - the smell is really aromatic. One fixed horse. The steam kills off the mould spores and allergens in the hay so it's safe to eat.

    I also keep on hand a herbal blend called BreathePlus from EquiNatural (www.equinatural.co.uk) which is amazing - it clears any wheezing and asthmatic symptoms up within 3 days if my old boy has a bad bout.

  10. #10
    Veteran Paint it Lucky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help, my horse has a cough

    Thanks to everyone who has replied. I got the vet out today as he hadn't improved. Vet says it's RAO and gave me some ventipulmin and advised to make his enviroment as dust-free as possible. I've soaked his hay for now, will look into steaming, barefoot do you need to wet the hay first? Also will have to change is bed as he is currently on straw, is shavings best or does anyone know better dust free beddings (and cheaper ideally!) Need to talk to yard manager too as his stable is in a barn so abit worried ventilation isn't great. Poor old boy is even weasing in his stable a bit now. I didn't realise RAO could come on so suddenly but apparently it does! Feel a bit guilty now as he's been on straw for 2 and a half years and it's never affected him until now.

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