Heaves versus URI? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 03-14-2012, 02:56 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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Heaves versus URI?

I own a 16 (17 in April) year old Standardbred mare. She began life as a harness racer, and once retired, spent 10 years on broodmare duty. She is on semi-retirement with me... light riding (walk, trot, very occasional canter), no jumping and no showing. She is kept outside 24/7 and is forked hay twice daily in the winter. In the summer, she is provided free choice grazing. I also supplement her with a good quality ration balancer and a handful of oats whenever I need to trick her into taking medication or bribe her in from the field. She is a very easy keeper and looks great for her age.

However, she has what appears to be a chronic cold. She sounds congested and has occasional white discharge from her nose. I have not heard her cough since October when I bought her. Her appetite is good, she is lively and has never appeared lethargic. She loves to trot and whenever I catch her from the field after watching her trot away from me for 10+ minutes, I never notice labored breathing... just the normal stuffy sounds. No wheezing, just plugged nose.

I was in Mexico this past week and I returned to find that my barn owner had asked the vet to look at my horse because she noticed that my mare was having difficulties breathing after galloping around in the big field and she was dripping white snot. Vanna was moved to a smaller turnout in an effort to keep her from galloping and she was prescribed Dex and one another medication for one week. I don't have the vet's notes beside me, but I believe the other medication starts with a Q. This vet thinks we're dealing with heaves.

I had my vet out yesterday to do Vanna's teeth (which were great for a girl her age, says the vet) and she also questioned Vanna's loud breathing. She listened to her lungs, and seems to think my mare has a bit of scar tissue. She prescribed a steroid drug for three days to reduce the inflammation in her lungs. In addition, she recommended soaking Vanna's hay or switching her completely to cubes to see if that helps. Her feeling is that we're looking at a minor case of heaves.

Doing some research, I found that one of the common symptoms of heaves is coughing. My mare doesn't cough. She just flares her nostrils when breathing and sounds like she has a head cold. When she inhales, she sounds very much like someone trying to breathe through a plugged nose. I searched those symptoms and they point to an upper respiratory infection. Are heaves and a URI commonly confused with one another? Two vets says heaves, but every article I've read, every note I've read about Heaves say that the horses cough, sometimes very violently during a particularly strong attack. I know I should trust a vet's opinion, but I've had some experiences with other animals that cause me to question and research every diagnosis my animals receive. I'm a little skeptical by nature, and I don't like to mess around with my animals' health.

For those of you who have dealt with heaves or URIs in your horses, what were the symptoms? Is it possible that she could have scarring on her lungs from an infection earlier in her life that gets aggravated after galloping or extensive work? She was a racehorse and lived in a barn for much of her life, so it's entirely possible that her lungs have been compromised in some capacity... what can I do to help her in the long term?
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post #2 of 4 Old 03-14-2012, 06:37 PM
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I own a heavey horse the labored breathing and coughing i dont think your mare has heaves something else is going on. My mare always coughs when shes has a heave attack plus the labored breathing.
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post #3 of 4 Old 03-14-2012, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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That's why I was thinking she has some type of a URI going on. The vet told me that the medicine she is currently on will clear up any respiratory issues she may be having and the steroids will reduce the inflammation in her lungs. Soaking her hay or switching her to cubes would help us to determine if it was a simple URI, or if the dust in the hay was causing an allergic reaction, and then we can go from there. I was just curious because two vets said 'heaves', but she's missing one of the most tell-tale symptoms, according to all the research I've been doing.

A member on another board recommended a supplement called Breathe, by Herbs for Horses. She swears by it for horses with respiratory ailments, including heaves, and it probably can't hurt to give it a shot. Worst case scenario, I spent 30-some bucks on a supplement and find it doesn't work as hoped. I've spent more money on worse things in my life.
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post #4 of 4 Old 03-15-2012, 12:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
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I use antihist for my mare works well for her i order it form horse.com think it 15 or 16 dollars for a 1lb jar not sure on that though. I also keep dex on hand for bad flare ups because antihist wont work when shes gets bad. Dust is a huge problem for my mare so have to keep hay soaked for her in summer. My pasture has a weed that triggers her heaves also so we have to get it killed off this spring.I have found the herbal stuff for heaves doesnt work tryed some of them spent the $$ ended up throwing it out.
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