Your horse can get respiratory infections year round, of course, but it’s important to know the determine if there’s an allergy at their root. Horses with allergies or airways that are reactive to a wide variety of environmental irritants often have trouble when the air is humid. Once the airways are inflamed by the irritants, however, the horse is at higher risk for infections, too. This makes it difficult for the vet to sort out all the factors, especially if he/she isn’t familiar with the horse.
Learn the early warning signs of respiratory distress before coughing and nasal discharge occur. These include poor performance, fidgeting during work, headshaking, an uncharacteristic avoidance of the bit, or a more subdued or irritable attitude. Once obvious cold symptoms take a good hold, you’ll likely need medications, such as bronchodilators, antihistamines, mucus thinners and antibiotics for any secondary infections to get them under control for the remainder of the season.
Starting the horse on a good supplement program can greatly minimize the chances of problems in the summer. These include:
• Vitamin E, 2000 IU and selenium 4 mg/day.
• Vitamin C, 5 to 10 grams/day (or 2.5 to 5 grams of Ester-C).
• Citrus bioflavanoids, 5,000 to 40,000 mg/day or grapeseed extract 10,000 to 20,000 mg/day.
• Spirulina (blue-green algae), which can inhibit the release of histamine from mast cells and reduce the levels of the allergy immunoglobin in the blood, 4,000 to 12,000 mg/day.
Avoid excessive iron, which has been associated with worsened allergic lung conditions in people, and make sure your horse’s diet contains generous, balanced levels of magnesium, copper and zinc.