This year seems exceptionally bad for our wildfires, and in turn the air is smokey and causing a variety of health concerns including difficulty breathing, sore throats, burning eyes, runny nose, and more in humans AND animals. How can we help our horses when air conditions are like this?
- Most importantly, limit exercise when there is smoke visible. Increasing the airflow to/from the lungs when there is smoke present can present with bronchoconstriction (constriction of the airways in the lungs due to the tightening of surrounding smooth muscle).
- Make sure your horse has plenty of fresh water, and try to keep it close to their food. Having the water close to the feeder increases water consumption, which is very helpful during poor air quality days. Good water intake keeps the airways moist and helps clear out any particulates (smoke/ash particles) inhaled. Dry airways cause particulate matter to remain in the lung and air passagways. If your horse isn’t great at water intake, you might consider adding electrolytes to their feed while there are air concerns.
- Add fans to your horse’s stall or shelter area. This will help keep the air from getting stagnant, will help cool the horse some, and will in general help keep slightly fresher air passing to the horse.
Other things to consider are if your horse has pre-existing health conditions such as congestive heart failure, pulmonary disease, emphysema, asthma, and others. If your horse appears to be struggling with breathing or coughing, you should contact your vet and possibly have an exam done. They can determine if it is just irritaion from the smoke, or if there is something larger going on such as pneumonia, bronchitis, bacterial infection, or other causes. Your vet can help you determine the best course of treatment (including IV fluids, nebulization, bronchodilator medications, or other formats that might help your horse’s concern).