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Can a horse die from heaves?

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  • Can a horse die from heaves?

    I'm not too familiar with heaves other than watering down hay.
    My sister had a lawn ornament Percheron who just died suddenly at 15. He was healthy other than being a little heavey for the past few years. This morning he was fine at breakfast. When her son came back out an hour later to turn him out he was down in the stall, covered in sweat. He could not get up. Vet was called and she was told his lungs were filled with mucus, it was all the way up in his throat. The vet suggested putting him down, which they did.
    My sister of course, is devastated.
    Anyone ever have any experience with something like this? She is a pretty good backyard horse owner. The horses get a lot of attention. She can't believe she didn't notice something happening to him that could have caused this to happen so fast.

    Hell hath no fury like the chestnut thoroughbred mare

  • #2
    I am not a vet, but I am not so sure that it was heaves...but again, I am not a vet.
    I will be curious what others have to say, and also what the vet said...did they say it was heaves?
    Very tragic, and I am sorry.
    save lives...spay/neuter/geld


    • #3
      Yes, a horse can die of heaves. It sounds like your sister's horse perhaps developed pneumonia, which can be a complication of heaves


      • #4
        Heaves is very comparable to asthma in people. When they suffer an exacerbation they can have severe difficulties breathing and sudden distress. Inflammation can cause pulmonary edema (fluid and mucus buildup in the lungs), which the horse has difficulty clearing. Caught in time, an exacerbation can be treated at the vet hospital, but once it gets too far along where the horse is down, can no longer get up and is shocky, it becomes nearly impossible to treat as the horse is literally drowning and the most humane thing to do is to euth.

        Heaves can be exacerbated by any number of things, but the big 2 things would be dust and molds and those 2 items happen to be very prolific around horses. As much as we try to contain molds, they splash water from their buckets or auto-waterers and mold grows in the wood, the bedding, on the floor, and wind carries mold spores from wherever. The spores are there all the time whether we realize it or not. These types of horses do best staying outside 24/7 on grass or watered hay that is removed if not eaten.
        Practice! Patience! Persistence!


        • #5
          Had one with heaves for years. We treated with different things for years. He did get where he was miserable after about 7 years fighting it that we put him down. Was very hard but the right thing for him. I have never heard of anyone I know that has had one day suddenly from it but i could see it happening if he was worse off than thought originally or like someone else said had pneumonia that made things worse.
          Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


          • #6
            I had a terrifying experience this summer. With no rain and consequently no grass, a round bale went out. Of course you can't see what's inside the darned things. My horse is the type to stick his head into the bale and not come up for air for hours. He has fairly early stage RAO and just keeping him off round bales is sufficient to control it.

            I brought him into the barn, put him in the wash stall to bath him and noticed a crackling sound. He was stretching his neck out, lungs crackling and couldn't get a breath. It was scary.

            I went outside and started peeling the bale apart and it was BLACK inside. After a few days of prednisolone and no round bale, he was fine again. So I know it can happen FAST.


            • #7
              Oxygen levels in the blood get low enough, and death is not far behind.
              Click here before you buy.