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Air Quality and Horse Health

Air quality issues such as wildfire smoke and pollution can affect your horse’s respiratory health


As irritating as smoke can be to people, it can cause health problems for animals as well. Smoke from wildfires and other large blazes affects pets, horses, livestock and wildlife. If you can see or feel the effects of smoke yourself, you also should take precautions to keep your animals safe.

Animals with cardiovascular or respiratory disease are especially at risk from smoke and should be closely watched during all periods of poor air quality.

Smoke contains tiny particles that can go deep into the lungs and cause damage. Look for the following signs of possible smoke or dust irritation in animals. If any of your animals are experiencing any of these signs, please consult your veterinarian.

  • Coughing or gagging

  • Difficulty breathing, including open mouth breathing and increased noise when breathing

  • Eye irritation and excessive watering

  • Inflammation of throat or mouth

  • Nasal discharge

  • Asthma-like symptoms

  • Increased breathing rate

  • Fatigue or weakness

  • Disorientation or stumbling

  • Reduced appetite and/or thirst

Protect your horses

  • Limit or cease exercising your horse during periods of poor air quality. Especially don’t require animals to perform activities that substantively increase airflow into and out of the lungs.

  • Wet down the hay or area that they live in to further reduce inhaled particulates.

  • Make sure your horse has fresh clean water available at all times.

  • Have a livestock evacuation plan ready in advance. If you don't have enough trailers to quickly transport all of your animals, contact neighbors, local haulers, farmers, producers, or other transportation providers to establish a network of reliable resources that can provide transportation in the event you need to evacuate your animals.

  • The lungs have a normal ciliary apparatus that allows it to clear particles from the environment that gets trapped in the lower airways. Coughing is then utilized to help clear the subsequent mucous that develops. A mild cough will be normal in these circumstances and should not be suppressed.

Speak to your veterinarian if your animals have been exposed to smoke as they can have a delayed reaction the smoke inhalation

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