Not Just For Foals Pneumonia in Horses

By Jennifer Roberts 


Whether it is human or horse, pneumonia is a scary disease. This inflammation of the lungs, either by viral or bacterial infection, is often thought to be for young or old horses, without much thought to the horses that fall well within this age range.

The fact is pneumonia can inflict horses of any age, even though it is more prevalent with foals and geriatric horses. This infection can be fatal if not treated promptly. During the development of a pneumonia infection, the air sacs in the lungs become filled with fluid or pus which causes difficulty breathing as the lungs are not able to perform as designed. Horses may develop pneumonia in one or both lungs.

You will need to have a veterinarian diagnosis pneumonia, however typical symptoms can include fever, nasal discharge, irregular breathing, raspy breathing, coughing, weight loss and even colic. Many times your veterinarian may need to perform thoracic radiographs, ultrasounds or CT scans to confirm the presence of pneumonia.

Thankfully it is treatable (although the prognosis depends on your horse’s overall health, severity of the disease, as well as the type of pneumonia your horse has contracted). Treatment options may include oral, topical, or intravenous medication, fluid therapy, and oxygen therapy. In more severe cases, your horse may require hospitalization for treatment and observation.

Just as with foals and older horses, a weakened respiratory system is an open invitation for pneumonia. By being proactive and providing your horse with fresh air to breathe in its stall you are promoting an environment conducive to health. If a horse’s respiratory tract is compromised it becomes a easy access route for bacteria, viruses, mold, parasites and other foreign elements.

A zeolite based stall refresher such as Sweet PDZ Horse Stall Refresher is the inexpensive solution to eliminating one of the main causes of respiratory distress in horses – ammonia.

Ammonia is an extremely toxic substance that occurs naturally in horses’ urine and manure. And while it may be natural, it can wreak havoc on a horse’s respiratory system (as well as their adult counterparts). Dr. Fredrick Harper’s, an Extension Horse Specialist for the University of Tennessee, studies revealed that 75 percent of horses kept on bedding without any ammonia- reducing compounds suffered inflamed pharynxes – the area between the mouth and esophagus.

The end result of these respiratory irritations? The horses are highly at risk for pneumonia, heaves, and equine Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

So while pneumonia is a horrific disease, make sure that you are doing your part to prevent it. Keep your horse’s respiratory system healthy by providing them with fresh air to breathe.