What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Smoky or Extremely Dusty, Poor Air Quality


Smoke and dust primarily affect the respiratory tract and eyes. They can aggravate existing respiratory conditions, and can cause cough and decrease respiratory function.

Severe smoke and dust can cause chronic cough, nasal discharge, wheezing, difficulty breathing and exercise intolerance. It can also reduce the lung's immune function, opening the door to bacterial and viral infection.

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your role


What To Do

When smoky or dusty conditions exist, limit your horse's exercise. Heavy breathing aggravates respiratory irritation under these conditions. Provide plenty of fresh water close to where your horse eats; good hydration keeps the airways moist and functioning better to clear inhaled particles. You can also reduce the total particulate matter that your horse inhales in a day by soaking your horse's hay.

Monitor the horse carefully, paying particular attention to their breathing, attitude and appetite. Listen for cough. Be particularly vigilant if your horse has a history of chronic respiratory disease. If conditions are severe, talk to your vet, who may want to proactively start your horse on medication to prevent problems.

If your horse shows any signs of illness or distress during smoky or dusty conditions, contact your vet right away. Perform the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) paying particular attention to respiratory and heart rates, and rectal temperature. Note the presence of cough or respiratory noise.

What Not To Do

Do not exercise your horse in these conditions.

your vet's role

Depending upon the situation and findings on examination, your vet may suggest management changes to minimize the impact of the conditions on the horse's health. If exam suggests respiratory disease has already developed, your vet may suggest diagnostics such as blood or other tests to differentiate bacterial infection from primary irritation from smoke.

Generalized treatment under these conditions is aimed at maintaining hydration, opening airways with bronchodilators, and using antibiotics when needed. If your horse suffers lung damage and inflammation from smoke inhalation, it can take 4-6 weeks for their respiratory tract to recover.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does the horse have a cough?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • What is the horse's heart rate and respiratory rate?
  • Does the horse seem to be breathing rapidly or abnormally?
  • Have you noticed changes in exercise tolerance, i.e. breathing hard when ridden or taking a longer t
  • Does the horse appear to be in distress?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP