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Respiratory Health During Winter

Respiratory issues can crop up year-round, but as our horses are spending more time inside during the winter months, respiratory issues can become more common.


We often hear the term Recurrent airways obstruction, or RAO floating out but what does this mean? RAO is a common, performance-limiting respiratory disease often linked to allergies and can present as a runny nose or chronic cough. RAO is more common in horses housed in stables and therefore more present during winter.


As with most things, prevention is better than cure. So how can we prevent our horses from suffering from respiratory issues?

· Keep stables well-ventilated and open. The best test for this is if you can see cobwebs, your stable is not ventilated enough. Keep top doors and windows open as much as possible

· Choose dust-free bedding. Try to choose dust-extracted bedding, and if your horse is known to suffer from respiratory issues, stay away from straw as it can harbour dust and mould more easily

· Keep your stable dry. Take the wet out of your stable as often as you can. Ammonia builds up from urine is a contributor to respiratory issues even in a deep littered bed

· Soak hay if your horse is known to suffer from respiratory issues. This reduces the dust particles

· Turn out as much as possible


Respiratory Supplements

There are many, MANY supplements on the market claiming all kinds of miracle cures, but do they actually work?

Research has shown there to be small improvements in the respiratory rate of horses fed respiratory supplements vs not. Most of these supplements are herbal and contain high levels of antioxidants that help to soothe the airways and promote better lung health. There is certainly no harm in feeding these to improve airway health, but do not neglect other important factors such as good ventilation and other tips mentioned above.

If your horse has a persistent cough or discharge from the nose, contact your vet for more help. There are several medications that can help to improve your horses’ airways.

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