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Help please advice for my horse's asthma

Help please advice for my horse's asthma

Hi all I hope nobody minds me joining this group on behalf of my horse who seems to have severe asthma. She seems to have allergic asthma with high eosinophils in her lung wash fluid, but I'm sure one of her main triggers is ozone pollution in the air. Throughout Autumn she had severe attacks lasting several hours almost every day. She had the same problem 4-6years ago (with symptoms every hot or sunny day from March-November) but then it got better and it was then manageable for 4 years but has now become unmanageable again. She didn't respond to oral preds at 1mg/kg or inhaled beclometasone or inhaled fluticasone and she got severe bacterial pneumonia twice after steroids. I have learned that ozone reduces the bodies antibacterial defences. I have been really interested to read all the different drugs that humans take. What I really struggle to know is how painful this is as I'm not an asthmatic. She looks in so much pain for the few hours that she is bad, but then she recovers again and her breathlessness is much milder overnight. If it rains she has no symptoms at all and can exercise just fine. Does anyone have ozone triggered asthma and can tell me how painful it is? It makes her breathing extremely rapid and shallow. Any advice on any aspect of her management would be much appreciated as veterinary science is so far behind human medicine. Are there humans with asthma that don't respond to preds? My mental health is severely compromised with the worry of how ill she is and the dreaded decision on whether it would be kinder to euthanase her so I would be so grateful for any feedback from human sufferers.

8 Replies

"What you need to know about equine asthma syndrome"



Well , at first I wasn't sure if your post was a joke or not , but you seen sincere .

As a horse owner and a life time of professional involvement with animals I have never heard of an animal with asthma , but common sense tells me that I would be possible for a horse to suffer something similar .

In some respects your mares symptoms are different to what human asthmatics usually experience , for most people their asthma is worse at night and rain tends to trigger an attack - so there are parallels and differences .

It seems you have taken veterinary advice , but vets are not always right , in fact I have seen many make major mistakes , so it may pay to get a second opinion . Make sure you have a specialist equine vet .

To answer your main question ; no , I personally do not find asthma attacks painful as such , but being unable to breath is definitely very distressing and the coughing after to clear mucus is very uncomfortable . It is a frightening more than painful experience . A horse would definitely be distressed by breathing difficulties , but because their perception does not allow them to see the future they would not suffer the same mental distress as a human .

Breathing problems are not uncommon in horses , there must be specialist forums on the Internet that would be more help to you ?


Hi Griffon, thank you very much for your reply it's really kind of you to respond and give your views on the pain etc. Unfortunately, yes, I'm absolutely sincere. The reason I have turned to the human forum is we have exhausted veterinary medicine. As well as being the horse's owner, I am an equine vet myself, and Josie has also been referred for investigation at University hospitals and with numerous other medical and surgical equine specialists but they have all been unable to help her. Veterinary medicine is way behind human medicine so i have spent hundreds of hours reviewing the human literature to try to establish what is going on and do think she has an ozone-associated asthma which has never been documented in animals, only in humans. Many thanks for your views I am really keen to understand how it feels for people who are affected, and whether there are people who don't respond to preds.


Wow! I often wondered if Asthma was exclusive to the human species, but clearly not! If equine asthma is anything like the human disease then pain isn’t really a feature. Chest infections are uncomfortable, and coughing a lot can lead to a bit of muscle ache, but that’s about it. Sad to say, but I’d guess that the reason your horse looks distressed is down to panic and fear because she is struggling to breathe. Very possibly she’s picking up on your distress too.

Many people with asthma find that their symptoms are provoked by environmental factors. My asthma is made worse by dust, traffic fumes, strong smells, cold weather and dry spells, windy days and stress. I’m also have an allergic response to grass and tree pollens. Apart from the leg-count and the fact that she is rather the more visually appealing, it sounds as though your horse and I have quite a bit in common!

I’m not sure about the ozone connection to be honest. As there’s a seasonal pattern I’d think it more likely that she’s responding to airborne spores and pollens. Also, the improvement on rainy days is significant.

I’ve had blood tests that show an allergic response in me to very specific tree and grass species. I wonder if a similar equine test is possible?

I too have good years and bad years. Allergenic wind-borne particles can travel many thousands of miles, and so a prevailing wind in one year may bring pollen from say Spain one year, but a shift in the prevailing wind might mean that another year the pollen is Irish.

Another factor could be the crops grown locally. Oil seed rape for example is notorious for provoking breathing difficulties. If the weather is warm and dry as it’s in flower then I’m in trouble. If the weather is damp and cool during the critical few weeks then I’ll not have a problem with it that year.

I hope that doesn’t sound too silly, but is it possible to fit some sort of face mask for your horse?

As for the response to prednisolone, I’d guess that this could be highly dose-dependent. The usual pattern for a human pred course is 40mg per day for 5-7 days following a severe asthma exacerbation. In a human adult weighing say up to 100kg this does work.

A horse weighs very much more of course, and very possibly will absorb drugs in a different way so you’ll need expert guidance from a veterinary pharmacologist.

Inhaled drugs really only work if you get the inhaler technique just right. If not then most of the drug simply stays in the mouth. How do you get your horse to inhale drugs? The reason these haven’t worked may simply be down to the fact that the drugs never reached the lungs.

I hope that these few thoughts are helpful, and I sincerely hope that you do find a way to manage this. It would be terribly sad to think that euthanasia was your only option.


Hi Tim Thank you so much for all that information. That's really interesting about the pollens I had no idea they travelled that far - I had contemplated trying to kill all the weeds in her field but clearly that would be unlikely to work. The reason I think it's ozone is although it's sort of seasonal, she reacts on any warm/hot day even in the middle of winter, when I can't believe the pollen could all just reappear. And she reacts in the middle of the day worst and gets better overnight which is exactly how ozone builds in the day peaks after lunch and drops at night.

The mask is a great idea. I have bought a couple of human masks to try over her nostrils..but everything is complicated in horses..the ones i bought i tried on myself and when they got a little bit wet they became suffocating and obviously Josie wouldn't have the means to remove it if it became wet from drinking/rain or if she snorted mucus into it. It might be something that can work when she can be supervised.

The pred doses are interesting. She is 500kg and was on 500mg which would be the equivalent of a 100kg human on 100mg so quite a high dose compared to the human dose by the sound of it. Does pred usually work better than inhaled drugs? I think you're right it's quite possible the inhaled drugs never reached her lungs.

From what I have read on ozone it makes it painful to breathe deeply and I'm really concerned that she is in pain. Her breathing becomes really fast ( up to 10x higher than her normal rate) and really shallow.

Thanks again for your thoughts it's very much appreciated.


Thanks. Since writing the last piece it struck me that you mentioned that Josie had twice developed pneumonia after being given prednisone. Well of course pneumonia is a bacterial infection, and preds most certainly compromises the body's ability to fight off infection.

Just last month I had a minor op, but because I was at that time taking prednisolone I was given a topical antibiotic gel specifically because I was at an increased risk of post-op infection due to the steroids.

As for the reaction to a warm day even it winter, it's not just pollen that airborne and a possible trigger. Seeds, mould spores and all sorts of microscope life are in abundance all the time.

I do a lot of fishing, and I'm very aware that day-to-day changes in temperature, pressure, cloud cover, wind direction etc will have a major influence not just on the behaviour of the fish, but also the whole atmosphere around the pond where I while away the hours.

The simple answer to all this is that there is no simple answer.

But do persevere with the mask idea. I've seen horses in a field close to here wearing what appear to be full face masks. There must be a reason for this - perhaps it exactly is for equine asthma!



Hi Tim. have you tried alternative therapy? I am a Bee keeper in South Wales, another beekeeper in our area supplies Honey to a local stable who has a horse with allergies.

I don't know the results or how much they gave, but the Honey must be local to you as it has all the pollens within it that your horse is allergic to, it sort of acts as an immune suppressant.

The alternative is to move the horse to another area and see what happens.

As far as the Honey therapy goes with people, I supply a lot of my Honey to people who swear by the benefits of Honey especially when it's local.

Search the internet as there's loads on there about the benefits of Honey.

I hope this helps.



I've no idea about equine medicine but I've had allergies for years and know that there are various types of allergic responses. Professor Jonathan Brostoff and Linda Gamlin have written a book "The Allergy Bible" and it contains information on different allergic reactions.

According to Dr. adrian Morris there are 4 different types of asthma - classical asthma, cough-variant asthma, eosinophilic asthma and atopic cough. On his web site he says that inhaled eosoniphilic asthma responds to broncho-dilators but does not improve with inhaled steroids.



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