Heaves Advice? - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 16 Old 06-14-2012, 12:47 PM
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I've forked off round bales successfully for individual feedings. No issues there. It's the 'plug in until it's gone' activity that is no good, their heads being sumbersed in the dust for extended periods of time. As long as you spread your hay out, you're doing a reasonable job. Watering it is the last step to really conquering it, though I haven't had a horse that sensitive in my care.

I hope being out at night shows some good results!
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post #12 of 16 Old 07-01-2012, 10:46 AM Thread Starter
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Updating on Scout's condition!

Haven't had any more attacks since his second, back on June 9th, right before I started this thread. Some coughing, but coughs are few and far between, and even milder than usual over the last week or so. Days that I do notice any coughing tend to be days that the weather report calls for high pollen counts or otherwise poor air quality in the area (blasted muggy heat wave ). His breathing has been essentially normal, even during/following moderate exercise. Haven't ridden much recently, mainly because of the insane temperatures and humidity.

We are, of course, continuing with the Tri-Hist regimen, and religiously soaking his hay. He's finally starting to perk up about his meals again... he never went off his feed per se, but he was eating with somewhat less enthusiasm because of the supplement powder and the wet hay... just different than what he was used to, I expect. As of the past week and a half or so, all of the old enthusiasm is back at mealtime.

He saw the vet about a week ago, for his annual shots and physical. This was the first time that our normal vet (not the weekend emergency on-call vet at the office) has examined him since this all started. She took a listen to his lungs, and said that everything sounded pretty good, and to keep on doing what we're doing. We talked for a bit, and the vet thinks it's just sort of a freak thing that he's developed this now, and still isn't taking the possibility that his problem may just be severe allergy flare-ups off the table. This vet knows us and our horses well, and said that she highly doubts that it was our hay or anything we've done wrong, or could have done better, that has brought this on. That visit raised my spirits quite a bit, to hear that things sound pretty good and that this likely isn't something that could have been averted had I done something different/better.

Unfortunately, the nighttime turnout experiment has pretty much been a bust... Scout starts getting very upset, almost panicky, cantering back and forth in front of the gate, whinnying and fussing once the sun goes down until someone goes to get him. In the interest of keeping him from stressing out and running around in a cloud of dust of his own raising, we've nixed that idea. We have a ton of mostly-noctournal wildlife activity, and pretty regularly see everything from raccoons to deer to gray foxes to bobcats to bears on our property; I almost expect that he smells something scary in the dark, as he's naturally a very calm and laid-back kind of fella.

I wish I could set up an electric-wire/ribbon turnout from his stall to the pasture... that would be ideal. Unfortunately, the way our barn is set up and positioned relative to the pasture, there's really no way to set something like that up safely. Wheat straw is tough to get in this area... I have used it before, but my Hoover-vacuum horses ended up eating it, whether it was clean or been "used," no matter how much hay I kept in front of them. That was years ago, and I went back to shavings pretty quickly because I worried about them eating poo/wee and having digestive problems or something...

THANKS AGAIN TO EVERYONE for your advice, comments, and for sending good vibes our way!! They seem to be working, and, for now, we seem to have this thing fairly well controlled!

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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post #13 of 16 Old 07-01-2012, 02:50 PM
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Scout, I wrote a long answer - herewith the shortened version:

Calling the vet to examine a horse with a spasmodic cough is a bit like going to the dentist with a toothache which goes away as you sit in the dentist’s chair. The horse will not cough just because you ask it to. As the owner you will have to do the detective work and ’speak for your horse’ to the vet.

What helps the vet reach a diagnosis of the problem is a record of the coughing -
ie how many coughs per minute / hour.
at what time of day,
under what weather conditions ie air temperature and whether moist or dry air.

Keep a record of the body temperature of the horse and the weight either as a gain or loss
Keep a record of the feed given.
Record the sound of any cough and take some photos of the horse as a record.
Certainly photograph any indication of the horse becoming ‘tucked up‘.

Note any activity which might bring stress to the horse - ie aircraft, tractors or human.

Keep a camera handy and ready to record in video with sound any serious bouts of coughing.

Damp all hay. Avoid using wood dust as bedding - use shavings .
Human cough medicine - (Benyllin) can help ease the symptoms for a short time.
Consider using moist sugar beet to help dampen the feed.
In the UK a prescription medication called ‘Ventapulmin’ helps give relief to the occasional cough but it is not necessarily a cure.

Horses can suffer allergies from pollen, dust, and various air pollutants - ie rape seed. Who knows what your horse might be allergic to and it is unlikely that a vet during a brief visit will ever find out. You as owner have to search for the clues.

Inevitably proof of a serious problem can only come with an analysis of any mucous from the nose, a blood test and an Xray of the lungs - but those tests can be expensive - and hopefully in your case, with all that dust about as a
possible cause, unnecessary.

Be lucky


Last edited by xxBarry Godden; 07-01-2012 at 02:53 PM.
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post #14 of 16 Old 07-01-2012, 07:11 PM
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Scoutrider, if you horses ate the straw then it wasn't wheat straw, more likely oat straw. Since we don't know your local I can only suggest that if you get snow, then set out very small piles about 20' apart then use a hay fork and shake them well. Also put his hay in a small mesh hay net. It slows his dining right down. When his lungs are inflamed it puts pressure in the diaphragm which you have witnessed with the hard exhalations. If his stomach is fairly full this too puts pressure on the diaphram. So a large mouthful of hay creates a no win situation for him.
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post #15 of 16 Old 07-08-2012, 11:50 AM Thread Starter
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Sorry I haven't been able to get back online to update... this had been a nutty few days, between the heat and assorted small crises, horsey and otherwise...

Scout colicked last Tuesday afternoon. He'd been outside all morning, brought him down for his afternoon feeding at 4 pm. He was acting dopey and out of it (best way I can describe it...), breathing a little heavily (not really distressed per se, more like coming off a workout), and not at all interested in his grain or hay, and laid right down in his stall. Being a little dozey and laying down in the afternoon isn't too unusual for him, but ignoring food is a major red flag for Mr. Bottomless Pit, and with the recent respiratory issues his breathing is obviously something I continue to monitor and track. I stood and watched him for a few minutes, mainly to see if his breathing would relax on its own (he could well have been cantering circles right before I brought him in, for all I knew), or if he was having an attack. Within fifteen minutes, he was on to an absolutely textbook case of colic. Nosing at his sides, wanting to not only lay down but also roll, a couple of little poos, but very little and far greener and looser than is normal. I'm attributing his slightly elevated breathing that afternoon to the colic and not to heaves at this point.

Some walking and some bute and banamine later, he was fine; came right out of the colic and did fine overnight, was his old perky self by the next morning; eating, drinking, normal poo, good gut sounds through the stethoscope.

So, after that crisis came figuring out the reason for the colic. I know exactly what he ate and had access to in the barn; nothing amiss in his hay (I'm already checking that for anything even slightly out of place before I soak it) or his grain, no changes in his grain, supplements, etc. With that in mind, I concluded that whatever upset his system, he found in the pasture that day. I headed out and took a sample of anything that wasn't grass and started identifying. As dry as it has been, the good grass is really starting to die back, and I wouldn't doubt that the horses may be looking harder at things that they wouldn't otherwise.

After some research, I discovered that there is a significant amount of ragweed out there. NOT ragWORT, which I know is quite toxic to horses, but ragWEED. A) not good news for his respiratory issues. While we aren't quite to the time of year when the stuff starts flowering and pollinating, I'm not waiting until that time comes to do something about it. B) it just isn't "horse food," whether it is what actually caused last week's colic or not. C) for all I know, just eating the stuff could be triggering his heaves attacks -- I haven't found any sources saying that allergies could be triggered by eating ragweed, but I haven't found any sources evidencing the contrary, either. At any rate, I've been pulling up all the ragweed in the pasture (and everywhere else I see it around the farm) for the last few days. None of the other weeds that I sampled were anything to worry about, or out there in any real quantity (i.e., 3-4 small individual plants spread over a half-acre paddock).

Scout has been in the barn since his colic; I don't want to risk him getting into the ragweed that hasn't been pulled yet and colicking again, and it has been too bloody hot for him to be out there without shade anyway. The weeding process has been slower than I'd like due to the heat as well, but it's getting done as quickly as possible, with care to remove the roots and dispose of the plants away from the barn and pasture. I've been hand-grazing both of the horses during cooler hours, keeping an eye peeled for any ragweed in the area. We did get a little rain two days ago, and again last night -- not enough to put water back in our creek, but the pasture grass is greening up a little, so perhaps weeds won't look so much like a dining option now.

On the bright side, Scout has had absolutley ZERO observed coughs since his colic last Tuesday. I'm really beginning to think that exposure to the ragweed has been our problem all along -- both of his heaves attacks as well as his colic episode occurred during/immediately after being out in the pasture for several hours, and this entire saga began soon after he started going outside regularly for hours at a time back when the winter weather broke in late April/early May. He hasn't breathed or apparently felt as good recently as he has since he's been stuck inside due to the heat and the ragweed discovery. So, now I'm continuing to watch him like a hawk, keeping up with the Tri-Hist supplement, soaking his hay, and other heaves-maintenance/control measures, and keeping my fingers crossed that this is just a bad ragweed allergy and a heinous year for ragweed. It's definitely been a learning experience for me; I don't have seasonal allergies myself, and never knew what exactly ragweed looks like until now. I know I'll never mistake it for anything else after all this...

Anyway, that's where we're standing now.

@Barry: I have been taking note of everything so far, every little hiccup or out-of-the-ordinary thing, and the conditions at the time of the observation. He has been observed by the vet when the asthma-like attacks were in progress, and she has also heard his coughing in-person. I keep records of the type and quantity of his grain, hay, pasture, and water consumption as well as his weight in general, and have those records going back to his purchase in May 2009. I will look into video-taping his coughing at the next opportunity, although the coughs are so rare, sudden, and brief that I doubt the camera would turn on before it was too late to capture on film. I've been taking all possible precautions regarding his bedding, hay, and housekeeping to prevent another "asthma attack." I also have a vial of dexamethazone on hand in the event of another full-blown attack, and he is on a twice-daily regimen of antihistamine supplement as per the vet's instructions. I'll look into sugar beet as well -- I've never seen it at any of our local feed stores before, as it isn't a high-demand item in the area, but I will inquire. Thank you so much for your suggestions and comments; Scout and I both greatly appreciate it!

@Saddlebag: I'll look into getting some specific wheat-straw; I've never seen an ad for straw differentiating between wheat and oat before -- If I can get my hands on some definite wheat-straw, I'll give that a try. Mesh hay nets make me a bit nervous; Sister's horse once managed to get his teeth caught in one (hung at proper height and everything), resulting in a slightly traumatic experience for him. I do have a canvas hay bag around. I've also heard and read that feeding from the ground was preferable as it reduces any dust falling into the airway? I already do spread the hay around the pasture in the winter, similar to what you describe, mainly to simulate more natural grazing activity, rather than standing next to a pile until it's gone. I will definitely see what I can do to slow his feeding down and avoid that excess diaphragm pressure. Thank you again for all of your suggestions!!

Anyway, there's the novel of the day... Cookies to all who read this... It may take me a while, but I'll continue to post updates and news as I can. Thank you again to everyone!!

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown

Last edited by Scoutrider; 07-08-2012 at 11:54 AM.
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post #16 of 16 Old 07-08-2012, 01:19 PM
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Scout - ref 'ragweed allergy' - well spotted by you.

Presumably you have found on Google the sites which discuss this allergy and how it works on humans. I found:

1-800-7 ASTHMA info@aaf.org which an interesting read.

The site even describes a simple allergy test for humans which might be worth considering.

I have always felt that we owners of sensitive horses don't pay enough attention as to the quality of the grass from which the hay we used is made.

Here in the UK the hedgerows are hundreds of years old and all sorts of poisonous plants lay dormant waiting for the right conditions to sprout.
The farmers make hay from grass and they sell hay as hay - they do not analyse the hay and even if they did, they could not guarantee the consistent quality of it.

But this thread brings home to me what I already feel namely the more we know about horses, the more we recognise that there is yet more to know about horses.

There is a very apt saying: "no feet, no horse" but the lungs are equally important - if not more so. It is the relatively huge size of a horse's lungs which give it the stamina it needs to carry a rider at speed and over long distances.
Let us hope your fella stops coughing.

Barry G

Last edited by xxBarry Godden; 07-08-2012 at 01:22 PM.
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