Horse dust allergy advice and tips

tips on how to treat dust allergies in horses

Dust allergies are really common and are often quite tricky for horse owners to identify as the cause of a condition that their horse is suffering with. Beyond this, the challenge is then how to manage it successfully. In this second vet tip from Verity and her vet Lee Paul of B&W Equine Group, they share some commonly asked questions and great tips on how to minimise the effects of dust on your horse.

Verity:   Like most horses, Kit has a slight sensitivity to dust and wanting to ensure his optimum performance, I thought it wise to seek the advice of my sponsors B and W Equine Group.  So this month’s vet tip from Lee Paul is all about how to manage our horse’s environment to minimise the effects of their dust sensitivity (a problem which is especially relevant during the winter months when horses are kept in).

Verity:   Are most horses sensitive to dust?

Lee:  The respiratory sensitive horse! Is yours one!! The real question is "Which horses are sensitive" and the truthful answer to that  they all are to one degree or another.  One must note that all horses are obligate nasal breathers, I.E they can only breathe through their nostrils, not their mouths. Now evolution has provided the horse with an amazing filtration system in the nasal passages, trachea and lung but in a man made environment these filters can easily be overloaded and regularly do, yet we are just not aware as owners. Its an invisible problem until its too late, a little like smoking in the human ,in most cases we choose to ignore it until the individual is coughing! The damage is already done folks!  So are we closing the metaphorical stable door once our horses are coughing up snot!


A picture of Szekit, Lee Paul, Verity and Uffa










Above: Szekit, Lee Paul, Verity and Uffa 

Verity:   Yuk! What can one do to manage and minimalise this?

Lee: Well all is not lost guys, prevention is definitely better than cure but the lung is a remarkable organ and will regenerate if given a chance.  So when thinking of the environment in which we keep our beloved ponies, we need to have that in our minds. I would ask you to pose this question to yourselves "would we want to live in a place like that".

The stable environment is critical to our horses health full stop.....

Its easy to see that a well ventilated stable will be beneficial when one compares it to the visual analogy of a room full of cigarette fumes to being in a room with the windows open, fresh air billowing in. Its a no brainer. Yet we seem to forget this when it comes to our horses stable air quality and, believe me, they are far more sensitive than we are, they just don't show it until its too  late.
So let's go back to basics, 

Verity:   So what are those basics

Lee:   Bedding. It has to be as dust free as possible and, yes, absorbent too as they hopefully are going to lie down in and on it, using their nostrils like hoovers physically drawing in their surrounding environment especially post exercise!  Remember it's not what you can see, think of the fumes in a stinky public toilet.

Forage. This too has to be dust free as possible. Its a non visual problem, as I keep repeating, and yes your grandmother was right you are what you eat! They are no different. You are quite happy to spend your hard earned cash on a supplement to make their coat shiny because you can see it. But when hay is dusty guys and we feed from haynets used for your  convenience the horses nose is at the level they are tearing the hay from the net, dispersing the dust particles around their muzzles and they again suck up all the dust!! Is it any wonder they cough.

Verity:   So are there any suggestions that are easy to implement that will help our horses?

Lee:   Solution is easy, maybe not as convenient or palatable but we all know "fast food" is not always what's best for us!!! Its a two pronged attack.

One, allow Mother Nature to help by providing a more natural feeding position, and two reduce the number of particles presented to the lungs by providing the best forage you can. These things can be achieved through feeding off the floor allowing for a more natural head position of grazing to facilitate the horses respiratory defence mechanisms. Along with steaming to reduce the particular matter. Hay steamers are a crucial piece of kit to maintaining your horses health if they are housed. These steamers are not only the reserve of the performance horses( I can assure you they already get the best of everything in order to achieve the small margins to win) but in reality its the beloved family pony that would benefit far more. Prevention is cure to coin another phrase, but costings of steaming hay, over prolonged medication, inadequate soaking, man hours, vet costs, water meter pricing not mention respiratory distress to our horses do not equate.

Verity:   So steaming can actually save us money in the long run and ensure our horses have the best shot at staying healthy.

Following this advice I now have a Haygain steamer and Kit loves eating the steamed hay far more than simply soaked hay which he used to just fussily pick through. We also now feed him from the floor instead of nets which seems to be doing the trick.  Lee explained that B&W Breadstone Veterinary Hospital use a dust free bedding  by  BedMax , which will also be used at, the soon to be opened, B&W’s Cardiff Equine Veterinary Hospital

Kit will now be solely bedded on BedMax which is incredible as it has no dust as the shaving particles are large and very comfy for my not so little Kit to lie on.  The combination of all these things should mean that we can put a stop to snot!

Verity Smith
Lee Stuart Paul
Bsc Hons MRCVS BVM&S Cert EP


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