Heaves in Horses


Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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26 Responses

  1. Lorrie says:

    Well I seem to disagree with the dust particles, I know horse breeding farms with barns full of weeds and dust, and having horses in their breeding program for over 20 years with no heaves. I mean dust barns and hay and no heaves.
    I have found that the Rhino vaccine given during the pregnancy stage seems to trigger the onset of depleted histamine molecules, more in my book
    Natural Equine Remedies .
    Natural remedies are ester C , and Dr.Christophers Respri Free herbs as well as a natural diet.

    • then5925 says:

      Hi Lorrie,
      I believe it’s the mold spores and other irritants within the dust particles that are thought to trigger heaves–and some horses seem to be more susceptible than others. I would definitely agree that heaves or any allergic response is linked with a lowered immune system though–and that good nutrition and herbs can definitely help in this area.

  2. Rosemary Snyder says:

    I have a mini horse who was diagnosed 3 years ago with heaves. If I use magnesium, vitamins C/E and Jiaogulan, would I use them all together or can I use one or the other/how much would I give him? He is around 450 to 500lbs. I have a dirt floor with saw dust, but am putting in a thick rubber mat/ am hoping it helps cut down on his heaves. His name is Briquet. Thanks so much for any information you can give me.

  3. Rosemary Snyder says:

    I also have been giving him a product with probiotics in it, but this year it doesn’t seem to be helping him. He also has Founder/ is 13 years old.

    • then5925 says:

      Hi Rosemary,

      I am not a nutritionist or vet, but I have supplemented all of these at one time or another (except vitamin C) and wouldn’t have a problem giving them all at once. Here is an article that outlines vitamin requirements for horses: http://www.ker.com/library/advances/238.pdf

      For full size horses, 2,000 mg of j-herb & 20 grams of spirulina has been found to be helpful for respiratory issues (per Dr. Kellon), so probably half that amount would be appropriate for your little guy. Dr. Kellon has a book, Horse Journal: Guide to Equine Supplements and Nutraceuticals, that I’ve found really helpful as well.

      For the magnesium, it would really depend on how much he’s getting in his diet (would have to test your hay), but adding about three grams probably wouldn’t hurt. Magnesium is also helpful for laminitic-prone horses.

      Are you soaking his hay? This is important for dust-control.


  4. susan says:

    I have a 21 year old gelding who haves heaves , I think it was caused by the silt in our paddock and the dust flying through the area on real dry days plus them running and the dust was horrible. looking for now a new footing in the paddock to cut the dust.
    In the winter and spring it’s not so bad but our dry summers are dangerous to my horse now. I have slowfeeder nets, I soak his hay twice a day , with wintercoming I am wondering how my soaking his hay with be cold on the hand. here is my idea I will buy a big metal garbage can then put a heater they use to warm there buckets and put my hay bag and lets it soak.

    • Casie says:

      Hi Susan,

      I’m sorry to say I don’t know of any easy ways to soak hay in the cold. Luckily, I haven’t had to do this. If I did, I would probably use a heated bucket (this is what i use for water in the winter anyways). There are also hay steamers, but they are pricey. Good luck to you!

  5. susan holmes says:

    I started my horse on a product called heave ho along with vitamin e vitamin . heave ho does have spirulina in the formula

    • Casie says:

      Hi Susan–thanks for sharing. Keep us posted on how it works!

    • Sandy says:

      Hey Susan I was reading about your horse, I put my 13year old horse Thunder on these back late last fall after I had tried steriods and antibotics repeadly. He has improved since I started him on it. I keep him on it thru the fall and winter then in the summer when he breaths better I just give him the vit E.
      I have seen a big difference I hope it helps someone that has a horse with the heaves that’s the only reason I am replying, I have seen first hand how bad they suffer when they have this horrible diease, allergies or whatever you want to call it.
      Stay with it, it will help your horse it won’t cure him but it will ease his breathing tremendously.
      For anyone who has a horse with these symptoms, I would highly recommend putting their horse on it.
      I also feed him beet pulp shredded w/molasses, mixed in his 16% feed along with a small amount of calf manna for nutrition.
      anyone who wants to get heave ho and vit E can get it at http://www.equinemedsurg.com just in case anyone needs to help their horses with breathing problems.

  6. Susan holmes says:

    I did try the heave ho and there was no marked improvement very sad to say so I put him on Spurlina wafers hoping it helps , he eats them in his grain and don’t seem to mind them . I have read a lot about spurlina and it sound good and there is another herb mentioned here and gonna read more before I decide on it.

  7. Diane says:

    I have the same environment for 8 horses but only one horse who is heave-ey. She is also quite anxious. She came to me with a huge sarcoids that were labelled “squamous cell carcinoma” by a Vet from Cornell, and was told she was terminal. I reversed it by praying hard and taking her off grain and eventually using toothpaste on them. It’s a much longer story but I’ll spare you. She came from a rodeo boarding facility where she was kept indoors most of the time. Here, she’s out most of the time. She is allergic to spring pollens and fall mold. What are your thoughts in tying her issues to weak adrenals (from being confined) and poor gut flora? I tend to think that treating these together are important in the whole picture. Her soy allergy points me toward gut flora, her anxiety toward adrenal insufficiency. The adrenals being responsible for managing inflammation make me think I could support the the gut and the adrenals with herbs and get better results going forward. What do you think?

    • Casie says:

      Hi Diane, I would say her immune system is definitely compromised and starting with a really good probiotic would be wise. Also feeding some supplements to boost immune function such as spirulina and possibly some adaptogenic herbs. You might consider having some acupuncture or acupressure done, too. Dr. Thomas at http://www.forloveofthehorse.com also makes a Chinese herbal blend for heaves which I hear is quite effective (just kind of pricey!)

  8. Alicia says:

    I have a 19 year old gelding that I recently found out suffers from heaves. He has had a mild cough for years now that has never worsened until this spring. Previous vets had told me not to worry about it so I didn’t. After mentioning to a new vet he checked him out and he does suffer from COPD. He is an extremely competitive barrel horse or at least was up until this spring and I’m afraid his cough is worsening and his performance is being affected. I have him on Spec-tuss and have been soaking his hay which is quality second cutting. He has also been getting jiogulan supplement for years and I have recently started a pro bios. With all of this he has improved but is still not drastically better. I am considering replacing his hay with Lucerne Farms chopped forage and/or hay pellets or cubes. Has anyone had any luck doing this or am I spending a lot of money switching his diet for no reason. Any input would appreciated. If he does not improve he will unfortunately most likely have to retire as I do not want to push him. Thanks!

  9. Linda Holder says:

    I have a mare with heeves , reading everyone’s comments has been helpful but, she also has other problems wondering that maybe someone here has run into this , I will try to explain as best I can .She has always had problems with bloat , I took her to a teaching vet school wear they did exploratory surgery , sure enough she had a very enlarge ovary ,A large hematoma over the top of the ovary, so they went in to get both and to take a look around at her colon . Everything check out fine we were worried that she may have had some kinda twist or something wrong with her gut Nope ,pink healthy, fine but it hasn’t helped with her bloat , she still looks like she is ready to have 3 babies we have a slow fed hay net I have done everything I can think of or read about and still nothing .Now she has heeves I’m lost as what to do for her

  10. Stacey Blair says:

    I’ve owned a horse with heaves for years and it is a challenge keeping him feeling good. I’ve read countless articles on ways to help. But I never read or considered using Vicks! I am going to try that along with some of these supplements to see how they help:) I read it is good to wet the hay before feeding it here https://www.equineridge.com/care/health/heaves-in-horses/ do you agree with always doing that or only when it seems particularly dusty?

    • Casie says:

      Hi Stacey–Yes, I agree with wetting the hay. Even if it doesn’t appear dusty, all hay contains some dust which can irritate the airway and make things worse. I would always soak as a precaution.

  11. Darcey says:

    I’ve recently bought a horse who passed a scope but has recently started coughing and it has been persistent for the last couple of months. He is currently on ventipulmin, has only been on it for a week and a half but is still coughing when I ride and occasionally when hes in the stables, no coughing when outside. He doesn’t have all the symptoms of heaves but just wondering if you’d recommend getting another scope done where they swab as well.
    The reason for my hesitation on getting him scoped again is he’s a very timid horse and really really needle shy along with having trust issues with everyone except myself.

    • Casie says:

      Hi Darcey, I understand your hesitation. I have a needle shy horse myself who’s had issues with a number of vets. I finally found a vet who is very gentle and quite skilled, thank goodness. I was so nervous last time she had to be sedated to get her teeth done, but everything was completely fine. If there is a possibility of Heaves though, it’s better to start treatment asap. It could be something else, but I would seek a second opinion. Maybe the scope won’t be necessary. That said, if your horse can be outdoors all the time and you could soak his hay (if you’re feeding hay right now), that might clear things up. It’s worth a shot!

  1. January 30, 2013

    […] Post navigation ← Previous […]

  2. May 10, 2013

    […] Heaves: bilateral, mucoid discharge, accompanied by cough, and increased respiratory rate; […]

  3. August 9, 2013

    […] often hear of the practice of hay soaking for horses with heaves (to reduce dust particles), but did you know that hay soaking is often beneficial for horses […]

  4. August 13, 2013

    […] Recurrent Airway Obstruction (Heaves): Chronic wet cough which is often more noticeable when eating, in the barn, or when being exercised.  Horse will likely have increased respiration and flared nostrils as well.  More common in middle-aged and older horses.  Coughing may be less apparent when horse is on pasture; […]

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