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Respiratory & Throat Problems in Horses

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Coughing is a common symptom in horses that could indicate a range of illnesses. Coughing in horses is divided into two categories: a dry cough or a wet cough with mucus.

Chronic Respiratory Problems

It is quite common for horses to suffer from chronic respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Symptoms of chronic respiratory problems range from an occasional respiratory tickle to severe symptoms such as coughing, nasal discharge and performance loss. Chronic respiratory problems are particularly common in the winter. Horses with COPD have difficulty clearing their lungs, which could lead to diminished alveolar elasticity, laboured breathing and ‘heave line’.

Common causes for respiratory problems in horses include hypersensitivity, allergies, environmental factors or improperly cured, and therefore recurring, infections. It is possible for your veterinarian to create a custom treatment plan by performing a pulmonary function test and other clinical tests. Supplements can be used that may help support or be used preventatively (particularly in hypersensitive horses) suffering from a chronic respiratory problem. Additionally, certain changes in their direct surroundings or stables could improve their condition, such as the proper cleaning of the stables, removing dust and ammonia that could irritate their airways and the provision of as much fresh air as possible. It would be preferable for them to be kept outside in a pasture as opposed to keeping them in a stuffy stable and roughage feeds should be mixed with water.


Influenza, commonly known as the flu is caused by a virus and is highly contagious. Common symptoms of influenza in horses include coughing, nasal discharge, fever and a loss of appetite. The influenza virus damages the bronchial, nasal and oral mucosa, which makes them more susceptible to contracting a bacterial infection. It is advisable to vaccinate your horse preventatively every six months to one year. This is mandatory for some horses such as competition horses.


Strangles is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by Streptococcus equi var. equi. The bacteria can even survive in the horse’s surroundings for a very long time and re-infect them. Common symptoms of strangles include fever, listlessness, nasal discharge and coughing. Additionally, in most cases the lymph nodes in the neck and throat become abscessed and could burst. Treatment usually involves conservative management where the animal with strangles should be isolated and supported.


Vetsend offers a wide range of homeopathic medication and supplements that may help treat respiratory infections such as coughing, the formation and accumulation of mucus, bronchitis and hypersensitivity in horses including the following brands: Ecostyle, Groene Os, Phytonics and Pure.