heaves? advice?

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heaves? advice?

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    09-12-2012, 12:26 AM
Unhappy heaves? advice?

Okay...so there are a few threads on this, but they didn't have many responses and didn't answer the same questions I have so I'm going to start a fresh one. I noticed my horse making a wheezing sound when I was riding a few weeks ago. Since we were doing a lot of difficult things, I didn't think much of it, and it was normal when I was brushing her both before and after the ride. Over the last week, I've heard it a few times when she's eating and breathes in. She also has a runny nose--clear discharge, not a TON, but more than usual. I called the vet and left a message. When he called me back, he said that it is probably heaves and to either take her off of hay or soak her hay to remove the dust. He also suggested keeping her out at night. I figure it's worth a try even without knowing for sure and if it doesn't work I'll have the vet come out and test for other things. Here is where the decision making gets difficult....

I called the BO to talk to her about it and she said the soaking hay and other things out of the norm for her routine would cost extra. That part is okay with me, I'm sure it won't be much and it's just not an issue. Then, she brought up the fact that they had just started eating off round bales a few weeks ago (when this seems to have started happening). They eat off of square bales for most of the year, and since (I think) round bales contain more dust, that could have just triggered her because it's not what she's used to. I don't know if I should ask her to change things all around or if I should wait it out some and see if things improve? What experiences have other people had? I've been researching COPD/heaves online, and it seems scary, but the vet didn't seem extremely worried. He said that for now to try this, and that if she coughs much more significantly or wheezes 24/7 that he'll need to check her out. Any advice/experience/etc would be good to reflect on. I have made contact with the vet and am asking questions and will continue to do so....but sometimes hearing from other people is useful as well.
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    09-12-2012, 12:44 AM
Having had a horse with heaves in the past, I would get her off that round bale ASAP! The damage to the lungs is usually irreversible, so do whatever you can now to get her away from triggers. She will only get worse with more exposure.
    09-12-2012, 01:02 AM
Thank you for your response. Too bad I don't have a vet at home because I worry a lot and always think of more questions hours after having talked to him and don't want to wait till a few days later when I get a hold of him again! I guess I know to take her off the round bale, but I'm wondering if the square bales are okay to try or if I need to eliminate hay altogether unless it's soaked. The square bales never bothered her before, but if she didn't have this condition before....I don't know. I DO NOT want to do any further damage. I also don't want to limit my horse from hay if that isn't a necessary measure. She does not have a heave line and is not coughing much....so I'm hoping it's a fairly mild issue? She did struggle with weight more in the last year than ever before in her life.

On another note...the vet didn't seem to think riding would be an issue as of now. If she is making that sound though, doesn't that mean she can't breathe and we need to slow down?
    09-12-2012, 03:01 AM
I agree, get her off the roundbale right away. Any dust and mold is very very bad for your horse. Heaves/COPD/RAO is irreversible, the only thing possible is get rid of the symptoms through proper management. And, COPD affects the heart. These horses die of heart failure.
Keep her outside, away from the roundbale. For now at least wet the square bale hay even. Riding is okay if it's not a dusty arena.
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    09-12-2012, 04:52 AM
Green Broke
Heaves is like allergies and asthma to us. Your horse won't get a heave line until they've had heaves for quite a while and it is severe. Just like allergies, spring and fall are the worst times. Your best bet would be to limit exposure to dust. Round bales don't necessarily have more dust than small square bales. The problem is that horses tend to bury their head more into the round bales to get the better hay. That causes them to breathe more dust in.

If your horse does have heaves, it is probably in the early stages. Usually there isn't much problem with normal riding. The horse may seem to get winded easier.

They do make a shot that you can get from the vet to help with the symptoms.
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    09-12-2012, 09:24 AM
Green Broke
My horse just went through the same thing. When we switched to round bales she got this horrible cough. She has been pulled off the round bale and is by herself most of the time in a separate paddock to get her own hay out of squares.

She also has allergies so she is on the max dose of Antihist until the first frost. It is also extrememly dry and dusty here so that hasn't helped. She is still coughing occassionaly but at this point I'm not worried as it is so much better. She still wants to run with some coughs thrown in but it doesn't seem to stop her.

I would second guess the vet on heaves if this is the first case and the vet never actually came out to see her. Allergies are at their worst right now over most of the states mixed with the dry weather most are having and it's terrible. I know I have been wheezing more myself even with as many allergy meds as I can down. Plus since it started when she was put on roundbales. Pull her off round bales immediately and soak the hay for a bit and if the cough goes away you know it was most likely the dust and/or mold from the bales.
    09-12-2012, 10:33 AM
Yes, there is a shot. I didn't mention it because it is cortisone. It makes the symptoms go away. BUT it doesn't heal anything! Plus, you might get away with one shot a year first...then you need more, and more often and you then comes the time where it doesn't do anything no more.
Best bet is change management.
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    09-12-2012, 11:45 AM
Does she stand at the round bale and eat, or do they fork hay off the bale and feed it (which is what I thought based on the option of soaking the hay)?
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    09-12-2012, 02:34 PM
Green Broke
Originally Posted by deserthorsewoman    
Yes, there is a shot. I didn't mention it because it is cortisone. It makes the symptoms go away. BUT it doesn't heal anything! Plus, you might get away with one shot a year first...then you need more, and more often and you then comes the time where it doesn't do anything no more.
Best bet is change management.
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I didn't say the shot cures it. I said it helps control the symptoms. The shot is a steroid but only a small dose of it. We give it to my wife's horse once a month when the symptoms are bad. He got heaves from eating a moldy round bale. Since we moved him from near a dirt road and started giving them small square bales, he hasn't needed a shot in over a year.

You are right that changing the situation is best.
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    09-12-2012, 03:00 PM
I didn't say you said
Just wanted to make sure the OP understands this.
I am just very careful with anything containing cortisone because my COPD mare also had laminitis and cortisone is known to trigger it. When I had no choice my vet gave me people cortisone to inhale, the little spray thing. He said this way the cortisone goes straight to where its needed and has minimal side effects.

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