Breathing Heavy: Looking at Heaves

We have all had a hard time catching our breath from time to time, but can you imagine if that happened on a consistent basis?

For horses with heaves, a disease much like asthma in humans, difficulties in breathing is a fact of life. And, much like asthma, we can’t cure it for our horses, but we can help to manage the symptoms… and for our horses, that is a breath of sweet relief.

Heaves is an allergic reaction to inhaled particles. According to Dr. Gabrielle A. Landolt, DVM, PhD, “Once inhaled, an allergic reaction causes the small airways in lung tissue to narrow and become obstructed. A combination of three factors cause the airway obstruction: inflammation and thickening of the tissue lining the airways (bronchiolitis), constriction of the smooth muscles that surround them (bronchospasm), and accumulation of mucous in the airways.”

As a horse owner, we may notice our horse’s coughing more than usual in the beginning. As the disease progresses, it becomes more easily diagnosed with nasal discharge, wheezing, increased rate of respiration and even exercise intolerance.

There is no treatment for heaves, but we can manage our horse’s environment to aid in the reduction of symptoms. Increasing the ventilation in your horse’s stall is imperative, if you are unable to provide more than adequate ventilation in your horse’s stall, you may consider leaving him or her turned out as much as possible.

The removal of dust (well, as much as possible!) from the horse’s stall and feed is imperative. Many beddings are quite dusty, such as straw and sawdust, so it may behoove you to look for alternatives. It is also important that you remove your horse from the stall when you clean it, as cleaning stirs up dust and other harmful chemicals such as ammonia.

Heaves is also exacerbated by prolonged exposure to ammonia, as it irritates the lungs and respiratory track even more. Luckily for you, ammonia is easy to remove; a generous portion of a stall refresher product, such as Sweet PDZ Horse Stall Refresher, will remove a large amount of ammonia from your horse’s stall.

If your horse’s symptoms continue to progress, it is prudent that you contact your veterinarian. Depending on the severity of the disease, they may prescribe antibiotics or even steroids to help manage the condition.

For those of use that have a horse with heaves, its good to know that it can be controlled. However, it requires constant monitoring on the part of the owner, but the results are more than worth it… at horse that can breathe easy.

Sweet PDZ has been keeping stalls healthy for over 40 years and continues to be the leading horse stall freshener on the market. This organic (OMRI Listed), non-toxic compound captures, neutralizes and eliminates harmful levels of ammonia and odors. Sweet PDZ is a far superior alternative to lime products for ammonia removal and moisture absorption. For more information, as well as a dealer locator, visit

by Jennifer Roberts