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  • Heaves

    My gelding dropped weight in the pasture last summer... the pastures good and I'd been sick so hadn't checked on them up close...we have ten. When I brought them in to "trim the grass" I was horrified at how much weight Chip had lost...the others look great. His flanks were sinking way in with each rapid breath. Put him in the barn and called the Vet. Only thing I could think of was heaves..and that was the Vet's conclusion. Chip was born here ..nothing has changed..he was on pasture with constant water access. Steroids control it. i to 5 ccs... depending on his breathing. He doesn't cough or wheeze..but you can see he's miserable when his breathing gets bad.. It hasn't changed with the seasons. Any suggestions? It just doesn't seem like text book heaves. He's the one on the left..his Daddy is the inside horse.

  • #2
    There is something called Summer Pasture RAO, a type of heaves in which affected horses’ symptoms are worsened by being out on grass in the summer. These horses are typically recommended to be stalled to alleviate their symptoms. Were you able to change his environment at all to see if that got rid of whatever was triggering his symptoms?


    • #3
      What is his diet like? Is he fed hay, and if so is it damp? A heaves horse should not be fed dry or dusty hay typically.

      If it is there year round, then it probably isn't seasonal allergy related (pollen, grasses, etc.), but could be dust or mold related. Is he in a low dust environment? No straw, dust free bedding (or as close to), and turnout.

      Also, I'd consider a nebulizer/inhaler. You can nebulize a brochodilator to open the airway and a steroid to reduce swelling this way. Delivering a steroid via nebulizer comes with less risks (laminitis related) than oral or injection. It is a small does that goes straight to the problem area.


      • #4
        My horse's heaves are worse in the summer heat and humidity. There is a seasonal allergy involved. His management includes daily hydroxyzine (antihistamines). This helps prevent the need for stronger drugs.

        He was on Prednisone in the beginning and it was very effective for him, but I got him off it after he started on Prascend for his PPID.



        • #5
          At 19 after 12 years of living on the same farm and eating hay from the same pasture, my horse suddenly and for no known reason developed full-blown heaves. Two vets and a veterinarian pulmonolgist said "Idiopathic --no know cause, no cure. Horse can be managed, but will never be sound." I was given prednosone and Ventripulman. And I must say that that made horse completely usable for riding (fox hunting). But OMG Ventripulman is expensive! To ride my horse I had to give him a $36 dose 3 hour before we rode, then carry a second dose with me in case he had an attack. So I bought another horse and kept the meds on hand in case first horse needed them. But he never did. After a year and a half ---he was fine. All three vets said he was fine --no heaves. By now he was 21 --and I'd gotten a good start with my new (younger) horse so, while I still use him, I have never worked him to the extent I did before his heaves episodes. The best guess anyone can give is that what ever caused the heaves reaction was there one summer, and gone the next. He might have symptoms tomorrow ---but for now --he's "cured." [of course there are times when I think he was faking the whole time just so I'd buy another horse and work him less . . .he's that clever.]


          • Original Poster

            Hi Foxglove... you sound the closest to what I'm seeing. His has been the same since last summer. No seasonal differences. He's been in the barn,... out on pasture... summer, fall , winter, and spring. I see no noticeable difference. When he's at his worst, his flanks cave in it's so hard for him to get a breath.... and he looks miserable. No actual wheezing or coughing. He's on 1 cc of steroids up to five if he's really struggling. He's such a funny fur kid I just hate to see him distressed. Did you ever move your boy somewhere else to see if it was something on your place causing it? His just went away? Ventripulman ..sounds great...but not in our budget. Thanks for the info.


            • #7
              kipissippi --my horse was the same every place I took him ---no better, no worse. But he never "lived" any place but home --just went to the hunt stable now and then. That was one suggestion I said no to--the living some place else. I have a lovely facility and no, I was not willing to board my horses "some place else" and drive there to ride him to cure his heaves. As to Ventripulman --yeah ---price was steep, but I found myself being very careful when I used it. It is amazing stuff. My horse only had one full-blown attack --and you are right --it is horrible to see ---his head was down, his flanks heaving, his eye's half closed, then panicked --with the "let me die," look in them. Ask you vet about giving you a dose of Ventripulman --just to see if it works . . .a$300 bottle was good for 10-15 rides . ..


              • #8
                My old gal had heaves. I had some luck with Histall-H, a supplement that is heavy on turmeric, and I added a high quality fish oil b/c turmeric is better absorbed with oils. I also set up a mister in the pasture where she hung out - I just used one of those self-standing ones you can get at Home Depot - it is bendy and attaches to a hose. If you compete, check the ingredients of Histal H. Not sure if they are compliant.