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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My gelding has a mild case of heaves and I have been searching for more natural ways to treat and relieve symptoms. I have been trying to do some research on essential oils and their effects on heaves. There are some sites that tell you to feed and some that tell you to let him breath it in. I am wondering if anyone has used essential oils for heaves or any other things I could try. I would love to hear everyone's take on heaves and things that have worked best for you and your horse.
 

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I have not used essential oils for heaves. They don't have any reputable sources backing them up in humans or horses dealing with upper respiratory. I did have good luck with my horse's bronchitis/heaves episode using a massive amount of vitamin E, spirulina (based on human studies for asthma) and high necked blankets. My guy was on the usual cocktail of meds, and I think that helped clear out the underlying infection. Unfortunately I didnt see the ventipulmin do anything for him and honestly rest and warm blankets made the biggest difference. I went through the studies behind the product "heave-ho" which was what made me dose up on vitamin E (he was up to 10000 iu/day for about a week then down to 6k to maintain) the spirulina is accessible (and cleaner) in Lung EQ, but at the end of the day it was cheaper to just buy the powder, though be careful where you source from to make sure the product doesn't have heavy metals.
 

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Dreama - rescue from the local dog pound. Some type of gaited horse mix of unknown history.
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I would stay away from using essential oils for any kind of medical treatment because of incidents where other animals have had adverse reactions to certain essential oils, it varies from species to species. There have been cats that have gotten very ill and died from inhaling essential oils indoors from their owners' oil diffusers. Different kinds of essential oils can be toxic to different animals, I know that a horse is quite a large animal and it would probably take a large dose to hurt a horse, but you never know. Remember that just because something is marketed as "natural" doesn't make it safe. Poison Ivy is natural but we don't want the oil/residue from the plant on our skin, some people even have bad reactions to breathing in air where the plant is being burned.

Also remember than an animal might be allergic or sensitive to something that another animal of the same kind might not be, just like humans can be allergic to different things.
 

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As far as I know, there are no significant studies showing any sort of true effect whilst using essential oils in horses nor humans. My horse has COPD and I've had the best success preventing future episodes through dietary means and trying to minimize dust. The below website provides a good outline for COPD, including some suggested maintenance methods.

https://equinemedsurg.com/pages/in-depth-equine-heaves-copd

If your horse's diet is already balanced, then feeding certain supplements/ ingredients that could be beneficial in heaves. Two of them as already mentioned are vitamin E and Spirulina. You could also try supplements with anti-inflammatory effects, such as Omega 3. One thing to note is that technically, Omega 3 is neutral, but has an anti-inflammatory effect when Omega-6 isn't too high. Omega 6 is pro-inflammatory, which is needed but in a case such as Heaves, you do not want Omega-6 to get too high. MSM is another supplement that could help (10,000-20,000mg per day). You can also use something like Omega Alpha's Respirfree. I've used that occasionally in the past as needed, but you could also provide it daily.

Additionally, you should try and minimize dust or any other allergens. 24/7 turnout is usually recommended for this reason, rather than being in the barn. You could also steam or soak hay to reduce dust particles. For a while, I also refrained from brushing my horse indoors and instead would opt to do so outdoors. Shavings are also something you should look at as they can often induce flare ups as well. Also, free feeding from a round bale can cause flare ups since they are in a position to breathe in spores.

You should also have medication on hand in case he does flare up. I'm personally not an advocate for going straight to long-term steroids as this can create reliance on the medication; however, you can also do lots of damage by not medicating during a bad flare up. During a bad respiratory attack, the horse can scar and thus progress Heaves if the inflammation and immune system is not controlled soon enough. If you haven't already talked with your vet on which steroid would be best to use, then I'd encourage you to do so. Aerosols are also something good to have on hand.

Lastly, know that if you will see improvement, it can take a long time. I was curious and decided to take at least weekly respiration values over the seasons to see when my horse was more likely to have trouble. My horse has had COPD for about 6 years. He developed it at one barn and I did not see any amount of improvement until I moved him to another barn where there was better hay (square bales vs round bales) and 24/7 turnout. Even then, the improvement was minuscule. His average respiration was in the 20s-30s some days and he had a number of COPD attacks where we had to quickly intervene. It took about 1.5-2 years to see another change (average respiration then around 16-18 breaths per min) and fewer COPD attacks. We then moved him to another barn where the environment wasn't as ideal. He coughed a bit more in the morning, but was still better than before. I decided to move back to the previous barn after another two years and his breathing has been in the normal range since then. His last COPD attack was about 2 years ago and no medication has been used except during the COPD attacks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
As far as I know, there are no significant studies showing any sort of true effect whilst using essential oils in horses nor humans. My horse has COPD and I've had the best success preventing future episodes through dietary means and trying to minimize dust. The below website provides a good outline for COPD, including some suggested maintenance methods.

https://equinemedsurg.com/pages/in-depth-equine-heaves-copd

If your horse's diet is already balanced, then feeding certain supplements/ ingredients that could be beneficial in heaves. Two of them as already mentioned are vitamin E and Spirulina. You could also try supplements with anti-inflammatory effects, such as Omega 3. One thing to note is that technically, Omega 3 is neutral, but has an anti-inflammatory effect when Omega-6 isn't too high. Omega 6 is pro-inflammatory, which is needed but in a case such as Heaves, you do not want Omega-6 to get too high. MSM is another supplement that could help (10,000-20,000mg per day). You can also use something like Omega Alpha's Respirfree. I've used that occasionally in the past as needed, but you could also provide it daily.

Additionally, you should try and minimize dust or any other allergens. 24/7 turnout is usually recommended for this reason, rather than being in the barn. You could also steam or soak hay to reduce dust particles. For a while, I also refrained from brushing my horse indoors and instead would opt to do so outdoors. Shavings are also something you should look at as they can often induce flare ups as well. Also, free feeding from a round bale can cause flare ups since they are in a position to breathe in spores.

You should also have medication on hand in case he does flare up. I'm personally not an advocate for going straight to long-term steroids as this can create reliance on the medication; however, you can also do lots of damage by not medicating during a bad flare up. During a bad respiratory attack, the horse can scar and thus progress Heaves if the inflammation and immune system is not controlled soon enough. If you haven't already talked with your vet on which steroid would be best to use, then I'd encourage you to do so. Aerosols are also something good to have on hand.

Lastly, know that if you will see improvement, it can take a long time. I was curious and decided to take at least weekly respiration values over the seasons to see when my horse was more likely to have trouble. My horse has had COPD for about 6 years. He developed it at one barn and I did not see any amount of improvement until I moved him to another barn where there was better hay (square bales vs round bales) and 24/7 turnout. Even then, the improvement was minuscule. His average respiration was in the 20s-30s some days and he had a number of COPD attacks where we had to quickly intervene. It took about 1.5-2 years to see another change (average respiration then around 16-18 breaths per min) and fewer COPD attacks. We then moved him to another barn where the environment wasn't as ideal. He coughed a bit more in the morning, but was still better than before. I decided to move back to the previous barn after another two years and his breathing has been in the normal range since then. His last COPD attack was about 2 years ago and no medication has been used except during the COPD attacks.
Thank you very much, this is very helpful, he has been put on 24/7 turnout and moved into my back yard where i soak his hay and try to keep all dust away from him for about two years now. this being said he usually has flare ups in the spring, fall and if air quality is bad (forest fires that only has happened once). other than those few times he has been good, i do notice he gets a snotty nose most times that i ride, rarely coughing though, just was trying to get advice on the best supplements to put him on for maintenance to keep him healthy. Thank you for your response it was very informative.
 

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We had a mare that was diagnosed with mild COPD and it was recommended to feed her locally produced honey. I added a teaspoon or so to her grain and think it helped. Never did have to give her the meds we kept on hand. We've since sold the mare and not heard the new owner say that it gotten any worse.
 
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