“Heaves”, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

“Heaves”, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can cause
coughing, weight loss, and breathing difficulty in horses. It is caused by an inflammatory
response in the lungs and airways. The most important aspect of treatment for COPD is
limiting exposure to potential irritants that the horse may be inhaling. Full turn out 24/7 is
best with access to a shelter so the horse is not breathing dust from hay or bedding
commonly found in stables. Good ventilation is needed, so if the horse must be stabled,
keeping barn doors and windows open is important. Also choosing an end stall or one
away from hay storage may be helpful. Soaking hay for a minimum of 1 hour prior to
feeding will help reduce particles that are inhaled by your horse. Choosing areas with
minimal dust to ride /exercise your horse is also important.
Your horse may also be prescribed steroids to decrease inflammation in the lungs and/or
bronchodilators to help your horse to breathe more comfortably. In some cases horses
will also develop a secondary infection and require treatment with antibiotics. There are
also inhaled medications available for horses requiring further treatment for COPD.
Please use all medications as prescribed and let us know if you have any questions!