Our best advice on respiratory supplements for horses and easy ways to spot the early warning signs of respiratory trouble for your horse.

Spotting the early signs of respiratory issues can be complicated as most of the early symptoms and indications remain invisible until they really become a problem for your horse, by this point the problems are more difficult to manage and resolve. If you know your horse is particularly sensitive, maintenance and being attentive are key to keeping your horse’s respiratory system flowing freely. There are a wide range of respiratory supplements for horses and knowing which are best to alleviate the problems before they start can be an invaluable insight.

Equine respiratory health stands as a major concern for horse owners, particularly at this time of year: the nights draw in, the weather grows grim and our husbandry methods have to adapt to suit the deteriorating conditions. Not only can the increasingly damp weather have an impact on your horse’s respiratory health, but consideration must also be given to the risk of increased exposure to dust from bedding, and spores from additional forage as horses spent more time under shelter.

Let’s take a moment to delve into the realms of discreet symptoms of respiratory distress, discuss management strategies, and highlight the pivotal role of respiratory supplements for horses in promoting well-being over the coming months.

Pay attention to your horse’s airways

Equine respiratory health plays an important role in horse’s overall happiness. The very obvious wheezing, heaving and runny nose are easy to spot, so let’s take a look at the less obvious cues you may notice if your horse’s respiratory health is suffering:

Here are some of the more subtle signs to keep an eye out for:

Increased Respiratory Rate: Pay attention to your horse’s breathing rate at rest. An elevated respiratory rate, even when not exerting themselves, can be a subtle sign of respiratory discomfort.
Nasal Flaring: Watch for flaring nostrils, especially during rest or light exercise. Excessive flaring may suggest that your horse is working harder to breathe.
Reduced Stamina: Horses with respiratory problems may tire more quickly during exercise, exhibit decreased endurance, or show reluctance to engage in physical activities. They may also sweat up easier than they otherwise would.
Subdued Appetite: Respiratory problems can lead to discomfort, making horses less interested in food. A decrease in appetite, even if mild, may be a sign that something is amiss.
Restlessness: Horses experiencing respiratory discomfort may appear restless, pacing, or shifting weight from one leg to another as they try to find a more comfortable position to breathe.
Reduced Performance: If your horse’s performance declines or they struggle to reach their previous levels of athleticism, it could be due to compromised respiratory health.
General Discomfort: Pay attention to any subtle signs of discomfort, such as head-shaking, tail-swishing, or fidgeting.

Prompt intervention at this point can often lessen the impact, prevent repeated episodes, and minimise permanent damage in the long run. Leaving these things to chance can lead to greater problems in the future, such as equine asthma. Equine asthma is a common respiratory ailment, mainly affecting older horses aged seven years and above. Severe equine asthma often traces back to allergies sparked by airborne allergens within the environment, such as dust, mould, and exposure to different types of pollen.

The respiratory tracts of stabled or barn-kept horses are often exposed to a plethora of airborne allergens and dust particles. Research indicates that fungal spores in hay and straw are the primary allergens responsible for equine asthma. These allergens trigger an exaggerated response within the horse’s respiratory system, resulting in airway constriction, inflammation, heightened mucus production, and an increased sensitivity to irritants such as dust and ammonia.

With any respiratory issue, the aim is to improve long-term management in order to minimise the need for heavy duty veterinary interventions such as steroids, antibiotics and inhalers. This is where respiratory supplements for horses can really come into their own and help keep breathing problems at bay. Respiratory supplements for horses play a pivotal role in alleviating symptoms and contribute to overall well-being in other ways too as some natural ingredients also help to boost the immune system.

When selecting supplements for long term management, it is essential to prioritise those infused with natural ingredients, these have the capacity to soothe and strengthen the respiratory system. These supplements stand as complementary allies, and used in conjunction with careful environmental management practices, they can really help ward off worsening respiratory problems.

respiratory supplements for horses

Let’s shine a light on some of the ways we can help support horses who suffer with respiratory problems by implementing longer term management strategies:

Feeding

When feeding horses with respiratory problems, it is useful to feed them from floor level rather than from a manger hanging on the door or from elevated food bowls. When horses are encouraged to lower their heads, it provides the opportunity for the drainage of respiratory secretions, such as mucus. This is essential in minimising the chances of bacterial infections.

For horses who are struggling with indoor irritants such as mould spores and dust, our Breathe Easy supplement is a great way to soothe and calm respiratory tract irritations.

The healing power of nature can be found in Breathe Easy’s unique blend of ingredients. Whilst liquorice powder, marshmallow leaves and ginger powder have anti-inflammatory properties; thyme has both antibacterial and antifungal properties which can help to combat infections and soothe inflammation and elecampane root is traditionally known for its mucolytic properties, meaning it is able to help break down and expel mucus from the airways. When these natural ingredients are combined in Breathe Easy’s respiratory supplement for horses, they work together to help clear mucus, soothe irritation and calm inflammation.

Forage

Opting for dust-free forage as far as possible can effectively minimise exposure to dust and mould spores. Options to consider are steamed hay or haylage. As cost can sometimes become a factor, soaking hay is another viable and more cost-efficient option. In terms of respiratory supplements, Airway contains a potent blend of natural plant extracts and oil to aid lung function, support the immune system in keeping infections at bay and encouraging the lungs to function at full capacity. Airway is a great choice for horses who are extremely sensitive to even the slightest hint of dust.

Airway contains a unique blend of garlic, marjoram, eucalyptus, rapeseed oil and echinacea. This unique formula contains the ingredients necessary not only to help clear the lungs, but to boost the immune system too. Echinacea has long been known for its immune boosting properties; Eucalyptus and marjoram both have soothing, calming and decongestant properties which are perfect for opening up the airways making it easier for horses to breathe, and garlic remains a steadfast natural ingredient known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties which are absolutely brilliant for helping to reduce the risk of infections.

eqwax horse fly repellent
eqwax lemongrass fly repellent

Ventilation, Flooring and Bedding:

It goes without saying that one of best preventative measures is to remove your horse from the area when you are mucking out, disturbing bedding or moving hay around. Dust and spores are impossible to avoid when they are airborne. Ventilation is a non-negotiable when preserving air quality for healthy respiration in indoor areas.

Ensure as much air flow as possible by opening windows, doors and vents whenever you are disturbing bedding or hay and avoid rushing to return your horse to the area until the dust and spores have all settled again. Having sealed rubber surfaces, complete with adequate drainage, can be a gamechanger when trying to minimise bedding. Good quality rubber flooring can really help to mitigate dust, spore and ammonia levels and makes the space so much easier to keep clean.

Invariably with all horses who suffer respiratory illness, there may be times where exposure to dust and airborne spores will irritate the respiratory tract and leave them with a nasty cough. Equi Cof-mix is a specially formulated tincture which can offer much needed relief from a cough. Equi Cof’s unique blend of ingredients contains natural ingredients with beneficial properties. Within this tincture you will find: wild cherry bark and mullein, both known for their soothing qualities; horehound, coltsfoot and liquorice whose expectorant qualities are efficient in reducing mucus build-up and thyme we know offers great antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Choosing bedding for horses with compromised respiratory health can be a minefield. Maintaining a dust free environment is essential. We can highly recommend you give Ethos Bedding a try, when considering bedding options for horses grappling with respiratory issues, ethos miscanthus bedding stands apart from other bedding products for several reasons: Ethos offers a pristine and hygienic environment which is easy to maintain and keep clean. Ethos bedding is a 100% natural, biodegradable and provides a great eco- friendly substitute to conventional bedding options, such as straw and wood shavings.

Miscanthus is a bamboo-like crop and is superior to other wood-based bedding because it dries naturally in the field guaranteeing it will have a low moisture content. Having already explored the mild decongestant properties of eucalyptus, why not give the Ethos’ eucalyptus scented bedding a go?

It is always advisable to be extra vigilant when attending to your horse’s respiratory health. Recognising anomalies in your horse’s behaviour or altered breathing patterns at rest or during exercise can really help you to manage these symptoms from an early stage.

Although respiratory supplements for horses can be brilliant for long term management of horse’s known to suffer from respiratory ailments and short term remedies are greats for soothing coughs, it is always best to seek advice from your equine vet should symptoms not show signs of improvement, worsen or persist over a long period of time. Adopting a proactive approach will ensure your horse’s respiratory health does not hold them back.