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What is That Cough
 By Winniefield Park   •   6th Jun 2018   •   1,300 views   •   0 comments
In Eastern Canada, a contagious disease is quarantining stables and shutting down events. Streptococcus Equi, a bacterial infection better known as strangles, has even shut down the famous RCMP musical ride. Strangles presents itself with a sudden high fever, runny nose, swollen glands in the neck, difficulty swallowing and a sometimes alarming cough. Strangles isn’t the only thing that can cause a horse to cough. Most horses cough from time to time, So it’s important to consider the other symptoms before deciding whether that cough is just a tickle from dust, or a sign of a more serious problem.



Just a Cough
It’s perfectly normal for horses to cough once in a while, just as we would. Dust or allergens in the air or a bit of swallowed food might cause a horse to cough. These coughs are infrequent, and you may or may not be able to figure why they are happening. Some things are obvious, like breathing the air of a dusty arena, a bad patch in a bale of hay, or a dry, windy day when there is a lot of stuff floating in the air. Some horses cough when you first start riding or when it is very cold. Your horse will cough a few times, and that will usually clear its airways and all is well.

Hay Cough
If your horse is coughing more frequently, you may need to look at what it is eating and inhaling. Moldy, or dusty hay can cause a cough. It’s important that you not feed a horse hay with mold spores or dust, because those things can play havoc with your horse’s delicate lungs. Breathing in spores and dust can lead to something called heaves, also known as Recurrent Airway Obstruction or COPD. That will leave your horse’s lungs permanently damaged with an asthma-like condition.

Environment
The conditions inside a stable can cause coughs too. A very damp, dark stable with poor ventilation is a breeding ground for mold spores. Like the mold in hay, these can damage your horse's lungs. Dusty outside air can affect horses too, especially those that might already have a bit of damage to their lungs. On dry windy days, some horses might be better off indoors until the weather settles. Pollen can cause a horse to cough, and some horses will develop coughs at certain times of year in response to whatever plant or tree is pollinating. In addition to a cough, some will develop full blown allergic reactions that require a visit from the vet.

Viruses and Bacteria
There are several viruses that can cause coughing. Equine influenza, rhinopneumonitis, are just some of the viral diseases that can cause coughing. Strangles, pneumonia and

Trailering
If your horse is trailered frequently, or must take a long trailer ride, it may develop something commonly known as shipping fever. Dusty and damp conditions along stress can trigger a runny nose and cough.

Parasites
Horses with a very heavy parasite load may cough after deworming. And horses pastured with donkeys may get lungworm, which will cause them to cough.

Choking and Foreign Objects
Horses that are choking on food will appear to cough, and may foam or salivate. If the horse has an object such as a stick caught in its throat it may cough as well. Both situations are veterinary emergencies.

So how do you decide if a cough is something to be worried about? Consider where it happens and how often. A wet cough may be more serious than a dry cough. And, if the cough is accompanied by a runny nose, fatigue, poor appetite or any other symptom that suggests your horse isn’t feeling quite right, it’s probably time to call the vet. Choking on food or a foreign object is an emergency, and not a “wait and see” situation.
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