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Trying 24-7 turnout for horse with heaves, how soon will it help?

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  • Trying 24-7 turnout for horse with heaves, how soon will it help?

    My poor mare got a respiratory infection (4 other horses in the barn had it too) last February. It hung on and I have been working with my vet the entire time, trying various things--but at this point it seems to be chronic. She has gone through 2 courses of ventipulmin, but a few weeks after she is off the medication--she starts coughing, flaring her nostrils to breathe, and you can hear the rattle in her breathing. I tried putting her on Smart Breathe, having them wet the hay and it didn't seem to help at all.

    She used to be out during the day and in at night. Now I am trying her on 24-7 turnout She has been out for about 2 weeks now but I haven't seen too much improvement. Any of you with experience on this? Is it going to take a while to really see a change? I have emailed my vet too, to see if she has any thoughts on this.

  • #2
    Slp2, I would first check to see if the infection is still hanging on. Sometimes those nasty respiratory infections are harboured longer than one thinks.

    We have two older horses here with Heaves. One is ours, a draft cross gelding, the other is a palomino mare, retired here, (who was in Florida). The mare (another COTHer's horse) came to us in May.

    Anyway, we have both of them on 24/7 turnout and except for one day this summer when it was So hard humid, high dew point and HOT, I have not had to give either any meds. I use Dex on them when needed. My gelding, and ex-NYC parks police horse came with a bunch of meds, and I was told was on a nebulizer. The mare was so bad with the Florida weather she spent all her energy trying to breath thus keeping weight on was hard. The mare is doing super and gained a lot of weight. She is happy as a clam-she's 24. My gelding who is 19 I use as a lesson/therapeutic riding horse.

    We noticed it took a few weeks to see improvement in both horses when we initially got them.

    All of my horses stay out as much as possible. We have a big barn with 18 stalls but they are happier outside.


    • #3
      We had a horse with heaves for ten years, and I agree with classicsporthorses that it can take a few weeks to see improvement once he is out. Horses can also respond seasonally, doing better at some points and regressing at others based on allergens in the air. 24/7 turnout isn't a magic fix, but it does help.

      Also -- I wouldn't neccessarily say that a horse with a rattle has heaves. I would say it has a respiratory issue, but with heaves, in my experience you have a definite wheeze, not a rattle. The rattle you are describing does sound like leftover resp something.

      Maybe ask your vet whether something like a round of steriods might be appropriate. One of my old guys got pneumonia one winter and after he recovered his cough lingered like you are describing. The steriods let his body realize it was well and stop producing the residual gunk. He was then fine.

      I am not a vet and don't pretend to be one on TV, but it is something to ask your vet about whether it might apply to your horse.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks for the replies Fordtractor: I will talk to my vet. I know the ventipulmin is a brochiodialator (sp?) and we did two full treatments with that (she was on them for a good 12 weeks of the spring and summer). My vet prescribed that for what she was hearing in my horses lungs. She was trying to see if it would solve a respiratory infection because we still thought it was that. I guess I am assuming that it is chronic because it has gone on so long now. Interesting to hear that your old guy improved after such a long time. She is 16, and has never had any sort of breathing issues before this.

        I am going to try a new supplement (Anti-hist) which is stronger than the herbal supplements and see if that helps. Plus I will continue with the 24 hour turnout through the winter. So far, she is happy as a clam outside. Of course the weather is ideal for them right now--bugs are down, cool and dry.


        • #5
          Did you do a transtracheal wash or bronchoaveolar wash initially? did you culture bacteria? Was she treated with antibiotics in addition with ventipulmin initially? Any labwork? Neutrophilia? Eosinophilia?

          Are you noting increased respiratory effort along with increased rate and cough? Any discharge from her nose?

          Reducing dust and having good ventilation usually does help keep these types of cases comfortable and stable but if she is currently compromised, you will need to address the collapse of her airways, inflammation, possible infection to get her relief.

          If you are noting increased respiratory effort, then treating her with albuterol is a nice rescue drug for her (it can be given via inhaler spacer delivering the bronchodilatory effects directly to the lungs) and then if no infection, treating with oral steroids initially (depending on how bad she is currently, an injection of steroids may be needed asap), if concern of infection, covering with antibiotics would be highly recommended. Secondary infection is common with those suffering from chronic inflammatory respiratory disease.

          If coughing alot, you can try a guafenesin along with the tri-hist, for long term maintenance.

          Good luck!
 ....developing riders, NOT passengers!
          Member of LNHorsemanshipT & Proud of It Clique
          "What gets me up every morning is realizing how much more there is still to learn." -GHM


          • Original Poster

            Brydelle Farm: Yes--there is discharge from her nose (white-ish). No, we did not do a TW or BW you asked about. No, there were not antibiotics prescribed with the Ventipulmin. Yes--I do notice increased respiratory effort. She is my event horse and this year we have not been able to compete as I have been worried about her breathing and she has lacked energy since she has had this. However, her weight is good, she is still eating well.


            • #7
              Fwiw-I think getting a tw or some sort of culture would be a good idea. I had mare who had a lingering respiratory issue of some sort. Good vets-very good- thought it was heaves. Same sort of story. She got no better- although somewhat better sounding as would be expected on the steroids and other things. Was told she was probably done so I bred her. Off drugs she was not great and still had d/c out if her nose and cough. While she had had a trachea-wash that had been negative, I took her to Dr. Nate S at Haygyard. They did another one, found a bug, treated her for 5-yes-5 days and she was all better and ran prelim again. Just a thought.... So sorry you are dealing with this....


              • Original Poster

                Good to know Annika! I did forget--back in March, my vet did get a culture and it came back negative. But--that wasn't from the lungs so maybe we need to head to MSU for more extensive tests. I didn't realize that these things can go on so long!


                • #9
                  Things have lingered, not sure if this is related or new, but no matter, it does seem like she might need a fresh set of eyes and a thorough work up, to get you a definitive dx and tx plan.

                  The longer it lingers, the damage to her lungs can become permanent, making her lungs less pliable and more likely to have chronic issues.

                  We took one to NCSU CVM and had a chest rads, BAL, cyt, cult, labs, etc for less than 1k, very reasonable.
         ....developing riders, NOT passengers!
                  Member of LNHorsemanshipT & Proud of It Clique
                  "What gets me up every morning is realizing how much more there is still to learn." -GHM


                  • #10
                    Talking strictly about horses with heaves COPD I had bought a 23 year old with heaves, he also developed or had allergies. He developed a bad case of midline dermatitis too. Then I got him to my property where we built a deep shed and he lived out 24/7 with the shed and he was better than ever even eating the dry hay.

                    During his tough times when we boarded him if he was in distress I would get Azium packets from the vet and he would go through the withdraw period too and while on Azium he was wonder horse. Other times we put him on Ventolin and that made him spooky. The best thing I did for him was to get him outside. But then the midline dermatitis became another issue. So keeping him on Freedom Spot On kept the bugs off so he was ok for that usually too.

                    He lived to be 36 years old and is buried on the farm we bought for him and lived his last 6 years there. When I got him there I whispered in his ear, you'll never have to move again and I was able to keep that promise.


                    • #11
                      You can also get albuterol pills if you are worried about administering an inhaler (or the cost). Our heaves horse ate them like candy so they must taste good.

                      I agree it is time to get this checked out and resolved before it leads to scarring, which may well cause COPD/heaves.

                      Actually the rattle/discharge/etc. could well be GOOD news, as she may still be quite fixable in a way heaves is not! Good luck and jingles for her.


                      • #12
                        the spacer (i use ped. spacer, ur vet can call into pharm) is about $35-40 I think now, use to be $15. U reuse this for awhile, be sure to clean properly to increase life expectancy.

                        the inhaled albutertol, u get 120 puff per canister and i think it's cost is <$45 per canister. love how quick acting this method is. a real life saver. i only use as needed, not frequently.

                        r u sure first signs were in Feb? it can be difficult to differentiate, but there are cases of summer pasture associated obstructive pulm. dz (, that can break early spring, and these cases need to be kept OFF pasture (March thru August).

                        CBC and fibrinogen, along with BAL or TTW cytology and culture can help u out.

                        Good luck!!
               ....developing riders, NOT passengers!
                        Member of LNHorsemanshipT & Proud of It Clique
                        "What gets me up every morning is realizing how much more there is still to learn." -GHM


                        • #13
                          webinar on respiratory issues

                          There is an excellent webinar on on this issue. It deals with time frames and the use of medications and explains the tests. It also covers acute vs chronic. Very helpful.