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The cough in the horse

Coughing in horses is not normal. Whether at rest, during warm-up or during exercise, it is important to pay attention to it. The causes of coughing are diverse, with more or less serious sources. In any case, it is important to discuss this with your veterinarian as it may be a sign of equine asthma. This term was proposed in order to describe under the same name the inflammation of the deep respiratory tract (Inflammatory Airway Disease or IAD) and recurrent deep airway obstruction (Recurrent Airway Obstruction or RAO).

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What are the elements trigger asthma in horses?

It is estimated that approximately 17% of horses have severe equine asthma (AES), and 68-77% of horses are affected by mild to moderate asthma (MEA). Hence, the reason many people mistakenly believe that it is normal for a horse to cough, particularly at the start of training or trail riding, or in a dusty stable. But no cough is normal, and it's important to talk to your vet about it, as the cause could be equine asthma.


The number one cause is dust. Whether in hay, bedding, cleaning the stable, grooming, the horse is surrounded by dust particles that are often invisible to the naked eye. Only dust control in your horse's environment can help relieve clinical signs.

With a thorough evaluation, your veterinarian can diagnose the cause. Here are some of the most common symptoms.

What are the clinical signs?

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How to take care of horses with asthma?

The most effective way to improve the clinical signs of an asthmatic horse (severe or moderate) is to reduce the quantity of particles present inhaled.


  • ​ Promote accommodation outside

  • If indoors, favor a dust-free litter such as hemp or paper shavings, wood shavings


  • Do not sweep in the presence of horses

  • Make sure to keep the stable free of anything that can collect dust such as cobwebs


  • Ventilate the stable as much as possible

  • Have boxes with a window to the outside

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  • Use dust-free hay with the Patented Nutri-Foin System, the effectiveness of which has been clinically proven, according to the published study in 2019 by the team of Dr. Lavoie at the Laboratoire sur l'Asthme Équin, Faculté de Médecine Vétérinaire, Université de Montréal). Source (Jochmans-Lemoine, A., Picotte, K., Beauchamp, G., Vargas, A., & Lavoie, J. P. (2019). "Effects of a propriety oiled mixed hay feeding system on lung function, neutrophilic airway inflammation and oxidative stress in severe asthmatic horses. Equine Veterinary Journal".


What you must remember:

  • Equine asthma is a very common chronic inflammatory respiratory syndrome in horses.

  • Asthma represents a major economic cost for the equestrian industry. It is the cause of reduced performance and affects the well-being of horses.

  • Environmental measures must be put in place to improve clinical signs, including the provision of dust-free hay such as Nutri-Foin.

  • Accommodation of horses outside is recommended, both preventively and curative.

  • Distribution on the ground or in a feeder to promote the drainage of nasal passages

  • According to a study published in 2015 by Nogradi et al., 2015, when all the environmental factors mentioned above are controlled, a supplementation with omega-3-6-9 fatty acids may be recommended by the veterinarian because of their anti-inflammatory properties.


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