Treatment for Heaves in Horses Review

Heaves in HorsesKnown as the heaves, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a severe constriction of the lung passages. Heaves in horses causes strained breathing, coughing, and the effort of breathing may enlarge the muscles around the midsection—making a “heave line.” It is not a form of respiratory infection in horses, but rather a form of equine asthma.

Heaves in horses typically does not manifest until the horse is at least six years of age. The cause of COPD is not known, though equine veterinary research and observation from the last several hundred years has suggested the horses that develop the heaves are affected by their environment. Lots of time spent in a stable filled with old hay, mold, or dust can cause flare ups, and removing them from the triggers can ease the symptoms.

When COPD in horses manifests, the symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions such as strangles. The strained breathing sounds, lethargy, and coughing are also common for strangles in horses. However, antibiotics will not ease the symptoms of the heaves.

The best treatments for heaves in horses are careful cleaning and maintenance of their stalls. Without this, medication has limited results. Once the horse is removed from the COPD triggers, then control medications can be administered. These include a form of steroid to strengthen lung muscles, and inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation of the air passages.

Even when treated, heaves in horses never truly goes away. From that point the horse and its environment requires monitoring. Unfortunately, it is not clear how to prevent the disease, but keeping fresh, clean stables and hay are a logical start.