Top Horse Coughing Remedies – The Ultimate Guide!

Last Updated on January 18, 2023

Coughing horses is a common sound in horse barns, but it doesn’t have to be that way! By using the correct horse coughing remedies, you can keep your horse’s lungs in top condition all year round. But how do you know which horse coughing remedies to use? Let’s find out!

You have finally finished stowing away your stash of hay for the year. You take a deep breath, glad that the yearly chore is finally over,  the barn is hazy with tiny bits of dust, hay remnants, and pollen. You’re sneezing, your horse is coughing and you both go outside for some fresh air. You begin to wonder, why is my horse coughing, about horse coughing remedies, and whether or not you should call your vet.

The next day, after airing the barn out, your noble steed is still coughing and you’re starting to get concerned. The good news is, it’s not uncommon for horses to cough a few times, but knowing how to identify a persistent cough and its accompanying symptoms will help make answering those questions a lot easier. 

Why Does A Horse Cough?

Horses cough for a variety of reasons – it may be due to bacterial or viral infections, or something that irritates the lungs such as dust or pollen. An occasional cough is perfectly normal in even the healthiest horse, as this is a useful way for the body to clear out waste products from the respiratory system. It is also common to hear horses coughing when they encounter dusty air, but this does not necessarily mean that your horse has a problem.

So, how do you know when to worry about a cough? If a horse coughs persistently in situations where you would not expect them to cough, this is not normal. Also, if the cough produces a lot of mucus, this can indicate a more serious problem.

Why Is My Horse Coughing?

Even though there are a lot of things that can probably cause a horse to cough, early detection of the cause of the problem is key to ensuring the long-term health of your equine friend. So, if your horse has a cough that is worrying you, it is important to seek the advice of your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Another good reason for seeking prompt advice when your horse has a cough is that many coughs are caused by infectious diseases. These can spread quickly through a herd of horses, so it may be necessary to quarantine your horse during the treatment and recovery period.

Most often than not, a horse’s cough can be linked to eating habits, exercise, age, and environmental factors. Coughing can also occur as a result of viral or bacterial infection, and knowing how to identify these conditions is important. 

Here are some of the most common reasons why horses develop a cough:

Environmental Factors

Just like humans, dry dusty environments with debris-filled air will cause your horse to cough. A horse may also suffer from allergies, which can be detected by a cough with an accompanying clear or light-colored discharge from its nose.

Many horses develop a persistent cough due to these airborne pathogens, which is similar to asthma in humans. This condition, called recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), normally requires long-term medication to keep the horse comfortable.

Food-Related Coughing

If your horse coughs whilst eating, this could be due to irritation in the larynx caused by dust in the food. Another respiratory problem caused by food is aspiration pneumonia, which when left untreated can become deadly. Aspiration pneumonia occurs when a horse breathes a foreign object into their lungs which then can create an infection. 

Exercise

If you notice that your horse appears to have difficulty breathing or seems to have reduced energy during exercise, especially when not due to environmental factors such as a dusty arena, it is best to stop the exercise and find out what the problem is. 

Some horses will cough when exercised because the heat and the movement may free up some mucus or move the food’s remnants into your horse’s throat. This is very common during the first few minutes of exercise when the horse is warming up. However, if the cough is persistent, there may be a more serious cause such as a viral infection.

Environmental Factors About Horse Coughing

Physical abnormalities in the upper respiratory tract may also cause your horse to cough due to the displacement of the soft palate. This is a common problem in racehorses and leads to an unusual respiratory noise when the horse is undergoing a period of intense physical activity.

If your horse coughs regularly throughout exercise, then it could be due to inflammation somewhere in the respiratory tract that may be caused by allergies, infection, or other abnormalities. Any horse that coughs during exercise should be booked in for examination with a veterinarian. 

Learn more about What Does High Fibrinogen Mean In Horses?

Bacterial And Viral Infections

In the initial stages, coughs linked to bacterial or viral infections are easily identified by checking the temperature of the horse. An increased temperature of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit or more should signal you to call your veterinarian. Daily temperature monitoring is a useful tool in a herd of horses where an outbreak of an infectious respiratory disease is suspected.

If you notice your horse coughing out mucus that is yellowish or whitish, such an infection is likely caused by either bacteria or a virus. It is common to see this mucus on the floor outside your horse’s stable, or around the nostrils. In this situation, it is a good idea to quarantine your horse whilst waiting for a veterinary diagnosis.

What Are The Best Horse Coughing Remedies?

While your veterinarian may prescribe several medications to help cure your horse’s cough, some great horse coughing remedies will help relieve the symptoms. Many of these horse coughing remedies can be very effective, but they should never be used as an alternative to the medication prescribed by your veterinarian.

Environmental Remedies

If your horse has allergies or sensitivities to fine particles in the air, the best thing you can do is to reduce exposure to these pathogens. Horse barns can be very dusty, gritty places with large amounts of airborne molds

It may be necessary for a horse with severe dust allergies to avoid keeping them in a barn altogether. These horses will be more comfortable living outside, where they have very little exposure to dust.

For horses that are kept in barns, a good tactic to adopt is to make sure your horse is never in the barn when you are cleaning out the stalls. Switch your bedding to a dust-free option such as paper or wood shavings, and damp down hay to reduce the levels of dust.

It is also a good idea to pay attention to where you store materials that can be problematic for your horse. Hay and straw should be stored in a separate barn, and the muck heap should be located a good distance from the barn.

For more information on horses’ allergies checks out this link by Equus.

Horse Coughing Remedies

Treatment For Horses That Cough When Eating

Coughing while eating can happen for several different reasons, and one of these is when the horse hasn’t been able to chew his feed properly or prematurely swallowed it. This can lead to food material becoming lodged in the esophagus, causing the horse to cough in an attempt to clear this obstruction. This condition is called choke; some horses can clear the obstruction by themselves, while others need veterinary assistance.

If your horse suffers from choking regularly, this could indicate that it is struggling to chew its food properly. It is a good idea to get an equine dental technician to take a look at your horse’s teeth to ensure that they are in good condition and address any issues you may notice with your veterinarian

Other physical factors that may contribute to your horse’s cough include issues with the epiglottis flap occasionally getting stuck. This mechanism directs the bolus of chewed food away from the airway, and down to the esophagus. If this malfunctions, particles of food can enter your horse’s respiratory system, causing them to cough. 

If your horse regularly coughs while eating, the first step is to rule out environmental factors such as dusty hay or grain. If the cough persists, it is best to contact your veterinarian to help you detect the cause of the problem.

Natural Horse Cough Remedies

The problem with any lung problem in horses is that they can take a long time to heal, and this is where the best natural horse cough remedies come in. While medication is used to treat the cause of the condition and relieve the symptoms, natural horse cough remedies can be used to speed up recovery and reduce any long-term side effects.

Many natural remedies for coughs in horses focus on treating the body systems as a whole. For example, horses with a cough often suffer from a build-up of toxins in the body, which can put the liver under strain. So, herbal therapies such as dandelion and milk thistle seed can help the liver to cope with this higher load of toxins.

Good herbal remedies for horses with respiratory problems caused by allergies are ginger, eyebright, and stinging nettle. Other herbs such as thyme, mullein, coltsfoot, and eucalyptus can be used to provide additional lung support.

If the thought of getting hold of all these herbs fills you with panic, don’t worry! Luckily many horse feed manufacturers have put together nutritional supplements for horses with different medical conditions, so you should be able to find a herbal supplement for horses with coughs in your local feed store.

How To Manage Horses With Infectious Respiratory Disease

Recognizing when a cough is a result of a bacterial or viral infection is key to not only treating the issue but containing the problem so that it does not spread to the rest of your herd. In addition to monitoring your horse’s temperature, bacterial infections can most easily be identified by a cough that produces a thicker mucus, whereas viral infections might be a bit thinner and may appear watery. 

If you suspect that your horse has an infectious respiratory disease, you will need to isolate your horse from the rest of your herd to prevent the spread of infection. You will need to notify any other owners whose horses may have come into contact with your own. 

Horse Coughing Diagnosis

Your vet will employ the use of medical tools to help locate and treat the cause of a persistent cough. They will first take your horse’s temperature; an increased temperature is a good indicator that the cause of the problem may be bacterial or viral. If no fever is present, then your vet may move on to other areas such as physical or environmental causes for your horse’s cough. 

The problem with coughs in horses is that there can be a mix of causal factors. For example, a bad episode of choking caused by worn-out teeth can result in aspiration pneumonia further down the line.

Diagnosis of the cause of coughs in horses may require extensive laboratory tests, such as swabs of the nasal passages or respiratory tract. Blood tests can be used to check for various viral diseases and inflammatory markers.

 

Horse Coughing Treatment

Thus, your vet will employ the use of their stethoscope to note respiratory noises or perhaps even an ultrasound if they cannot locate the source of the problem. They may even need to go further and internally examine your four-legged friend using an endoscope, where a camera is passed into the respiratory tract to look for areas of inflammation and infection. This can help your vet identify structures that are inhibiting breathing or diagnose physical abnormalities and can also aid in the collection of laboratory samples.

Once the cause of your horse’s cough has been located and identified, your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate treatment. This can vary from medication such as anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics through to management changes to reduce exposure to environmental pathogens.

Conclusion – Horse Coughing Remedies

As with any medical condition of horses, prevention and early detection of a persistent cough will save you and your horse a lot of time and stress. Persistent coughing in horses is not normal, and contacting a veterinarian as soon as the symptoms start showing can significantly reduce recovery times. Using holistic therapies such as natural horse coughing remedies alongside veterinary medication can maximize the chances of your horse making a full recovery.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the best horse coughing remedies! Can you suggest some natural remedies for dry cough in horses for our readers to try? Or perhaps you’ve got a good horse cough syrup recipe or are a fan of albuterol syrup for horses? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!

Takeaways:

  • Persistent coughing in horses is abnormal and can indicate several problems.
  • A temperature of 101.5 degrees or higher can indicate a bacterial or viral infection and warrants a call to your vet. You should also isolate the affected horse from the remainder of your herd to avoid the spread of infection.
  • Make a note of the consistency and color of any mucus. Record discharge from your horse’s nose or absence of such mucus. This will provide your vet with important information that will help diagnose the problem.
  • Air quality in your barn can be increased with ventilation. You should avoid storing hay supplies over stalls of horses with allergies. Dust can be reduced by slightly dampening your horse’s hay.

Does penicillin treat respiratory infections in horses?

Although the results of some studies are promising, further investigation is needed to confirm the effectiveness of penicillin as a treatment for equine laryngeal infections.
Respiratory tract infections are common in horses and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. In most cases, the infection will resolve on its own, but severe laryngeal infections can cause permanent damage and even death. Because bacterial infections are more common than viral or fungal infections, many horse owners prefer to use penicillin to treat laryngeal infections. However, the drugs that are commonly used for treatment of laryngeal infections include amoxicillin, clavulanic acid, cephalexin, enrofloxacin, gentamicin, neomycin, and tulathromycin. Most of these drugs are used for systemic treatment of respiratory tract infections in horses, but some are also used for topical treatment of laryngeal infections.

What is equine asthma?

Equine asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways in horses, which is characterized by bronchoconstriction, airway hyper-responsiveness and mucus production. 
It is caused by a combination of factors including the environmental and genetic predisposition of the horse, and the inhalation of environmental allergens. The clinical signs of equine asthma include coughing, increased respiratory rate and nasal discharge. In addition, horses with equine asthma may have reduced performance and exercise tolerance. 

Can worms cause coughing in horses?

The species of parasitic roundworms called lungworm (Dictyocaulus arnfieldi) can cause an infection of the lower respiratory tract in horses. The parasites live in the lungs of horses, where they may develop in the tissues lining the air passages. The infection can cause severe coughing in horses and usually develops in bronchitis or pneumonia.
If left untreated, the condition can lead to death. The symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory diseases. The risk of developing lungworm infection is increased by exposure to rain or mud contaminated with horse faeces, as well as exposure to large numbers of young horses in a group, especially if these are kept on pasture land. Horses that have been stabled, fed poor-quality forage, or exposed to other horses are also more likely to be infected.

What are the symptoms of lungworm in horses?

Obviously, this is a very serious condition that requires immediate veterinary attention. The symptoms include coughing, weight loss, nasal discharge, laboured breathing, and difficulty in breathing. The condition may lead to a poor prognosis if not treated. It is important to remember that horses are very susceptible to infections. They are exposed to a lot of parasites and bacteria on a daily basis.
The best way to prevent lungworm infection is to prevent exposure to the parasite. If your horse is kept on pasture land, it is advisable to remove all horse faeces and manure from the paddock. It is also important to avoid using pastures that are known to be contaminated with horse faeces.

How long does a horse cough last?

The horse cough is the result of a series of contractions of the muscles in the lungs. The cause of a horse cough can be respiratory, infectious or inflammatory. The most common cause of a cough is the respiratory.
The cough can last for up to 21 days. However, if it persists for longer than that it’s time to consult your veterinary specialist as this could be a sign of more serious health issues. 

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