Dry Cough In Horses: What To Do

Last Updated on May 22, 2022

Many horses will experience coughing at one point or another, as there are many things that can cause it. However, dry cough in horses can be a sign of a more serious problem. It is important to understand what is causing the dry cough and what treatment your horse needs.

In some cases, a horse will cough simply because they got dust or debris caught in their airway and they are just keeping themselves healthy. In other cases, a cough can be a sign of something more serious such as an illness or an inflammatory condition. If your horse has a regular dry cough, you should contact your veterinarian to seek treatment for your horse.

What Is Dry Cough In Horses?

A dry cough in horses is one without any mucus production. A wet cough, on the other hand, includes a mucus secretion in the airways.

In many cases, it can be hard to differentiate between a dry cough and a wet cough. Even for experts, it can be tricky to tell the difference between the two without further examination.

In some cases, a dry cough can simply be your horse getting some dirt or hay out of their airway. Sometimes, a dry cough is the result of allergies. In more serious cases, your horse could have a virus.

What Is Dry Cough In Horses

Though an occasional dry cough is not generally anything to worry about, a regular dry cough is a cause for concern. Your veterinarian can help determine the cause of the cough and the appropriate treatment options for your horse.

Read more about What Is Entrapped Epiglottis In Horses?

Common Causes Of Dry Coughing In Horses

There are several factors that could be the cause of dry cough in your horse. Understanding what is the cause of the cough is important so you can make sure your horse is healthy.

Dust Or Debris

When dust or debris enters the airway of a horse, this will cause them to cough. Sometimes when eating, hay, grain or grass may accidentally go down the wrong tube, causing a horse to cough. When a horse coughs from dust or debris, it is not normally something you have to worry about.


Just like people, horses can also get a form of influenza as well. Equine influenza is a type of respiratory disease that is highly contagious.  It can spread easily through direct contact between horses or even by shared brushes, tack, equipment, and clothing.

There are two types of equine influenza: influenza A and influenza B. Symptoms of equine influenza include coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, nasal discharge, fever, and weakness.

In mild cases, horses are generally treated with rest and supportive care. In more serious cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may be administered. Fortunately, a vaccine is available to help prevent and spread equine influenza.


As do many animals, horses can suffer from allergies too. Horses can experience allergies from pollen, dust, bedding, mold, bug bites, and even the application of topical products. Some horses may only exhibit minor allergy symptoms whereas others experience more serious symptoms.

Common symptoms of allergies include coughing, wheezing, sneezing, and nasal discharge. In some cases, horses may experience hives and itchiness. Your veterinarian can help you pinpoint the cause of the allergies and help you manage and treat your horse’s allergies.

Check Out When Do Racehorses Retire?


Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx that affects the upper airway of a horse. Causes of laryngitis include equine influenza, equine herpes virus, equine viral arteritis, strangles, exposure to noxious gases, and smoke inhalation.

Common symptoms include a dry, harsh cough, inspiratory dyspnea, and harsh breathing sounds. Horses may also develop an intolerance to exercise as well. Treatment generally involves systemic anti-inflammatory agents and antibiotics.


Tracheitis occurs from inflammation of the windpipe. It often accompanies viral upper respiratory tract diseases and one of the most notable symptoms is a dry cough. Veterinarians will diagnose the problem and administer the appropriate treatment for the horse.

Absorbine Bute-Less Comfort & Recovery Supplement Pellets, Healthy Inflammatory Response

Viral Infection

Horses can get a variety of different viral infections. They can easily spread through barns and can cause a variety of symptoms, including dry cough.

Learn about Black Oil Sunflower Seeds For Horses – Good Or Bad?

When Should You Become Concerned About A Horse Dry Coughing?

If your horse has been consistently dry coughing for several days, you should contact your veterinarian to see what the problem is. In addition, if your horse is dry coughing with other symptoms including a fever, hives, nasal discharge, weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, and sneezing, you should contact your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian can help determine the cause of the cough and what treatment your horse needs. To diagnose your horse, your veterinarian may perform an endoscopy, ultrasound, or simply use a stethoscope.

Treatments For Dry Cough

Treatments for dry cough in horses vary by what is causing the problem. For viral and bacterial infections, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, steroids, or antibiotics. In some cases, a horse may just need rest and supportive care.

For allergies, avoid giving your horse dusty feeds, regularly change bedding and provide time outside of the stall. In some cases, oral or injectable steroids may be used for allergies. Supplements with Vitamin C or with omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseed can also be beneficial.

Treatments For Dry Cough

Understanding Why Your Horse Has A Dry Cough

Dry coughs can happen because of many reasons in horses including dirt or debris, allergies, influenza, laryngitis, tracheitis, and viral infections. Veterinarians can determine the cause, management, and treatment needed for the cough.

Do you have any questions regarding what causes a dry cough in horses? If so, please ask any questions regarding causes and treatments for coughs in the comments.


What Can I Give My Horse for Dry Cough?

Supplements with Vitamin C or with omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseed can be helpful for a horse with a dry cough, especially if it is from allergies. Slightly wetting down hay before feeding can also be beneficial as well.

How Do you Treat a Horse with a Cough?

Treatments for cough in horses will carry by the cause. Common treatments include oral or injectable steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. In some cases, a horse just may need rest and supportive care.

Can Hay Cause a Horse to Cough?

Low-quality hay and hay that has any dust in it can cause a horse to cough. Be sure to feed high-quality hay and if need be, lightly soak it in water right before feeding it to your horse.

When Should I Worry About My Horse’s Cough?

If your horse's cough has been persisting for several days, you should call your veterinarian. In addition, if it is accompanied by a fever, hives, nasal discharge, weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite and sneezing, you should contact your veterinarian.