Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Blowing, Snorting, or Sneezing Repeatedly

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If the behavior persists for longer than 30 minutes without an explanation.
  • If the behavior is persistent and the horse seems to be distressed.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

In an otherwise healthy horse, occasional, brief bouts of blowing or snorting (lasting less than a minute) is probably nothing to worry about. Sneezing and blowing is a common behavior and is often an indicator of pleasure in horses.

Blowing, snorting or sneezing is also a natural response to an irritant (usually dust or plant material) in contact with the sensitive membranes of the nasal passages. Dust from different feeds, hay dust and blowing soil often cause nasal irritation and sneezing.

As happens with us in most cases, a few sneezes and the offending cause is usually dislodged and blown out. In most cases, the behavior subsides quickly thereafter.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the horse’s rectal temperature, and the presence or absence of nasal discharge or cough. Consider the environment and the hay. Look up the nostrils with a light. Do you notice foreign material? Watch the horse for a short while to see if the behavior resolves. If it continues or worsens, or is accompanied by other signs of illness or abnormalities move your horse to an outside corral, let them loose away from contact with other horses, and contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

Note, these signs are also commonly seen (along with other more serious signs of distress) in horses reacting to an improperly administered shot of penicillin.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet would see a horse that continued to blow and snort for a long period of time, or showed other abnormal signs. They consider this behavior in light of body-wide health and the environment and history. If there is no explanation, the most useful diagnostic test is nasal endoscopy.

What Not To Do

Do not handle a horse that is blowing or snorting soon after a penicillin-G injection. This could be a procaine reaction.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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