Bushfire Smoke & Equine Respiratory Health

With the devastating bush fires raging across Australia, many of us are concerned about the effects of smoke inhalation on our horses. And for good reason! Smoke consists of a nasty combination of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, soot, hydrocarbons and other organic substances such as nitrogen oxides and trace minerals. While us humans can escape smoky conditions by wearing masks or going inside, our horses are unfortunately left exposed and vulnerable to the effects.

Smoke also contains particulates, which are a mix of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. These particulates are typically very small and can therefore reach the deepest parts of the horse’s respiratory tract. Not only are particulates irritating for the horse’s eyes and respiratory tract, but they can also have long-term health implications.

What are some signs to look out for?

  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased nasal discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

Here’s how we can support our horses through smoky conditions:

  • If your eyes burn and are bothered by smoke, you can assume your horse will be feeling the same way! Use human health air quality advisories and apply the same conditions for horses.
  • Monitor your horse for signs of respiratory problems.
  • Consult your veterinarian if your horse is showing signs of respiratory issues. There are treatments such as intravenous fluids, bronchodilator drugs, nebulisation or other measures to facilitate hydration of the airways and reduce inflammation. Your horse may also need blood tests to determine whether a secondary bacterial infection is contributing to respiratory problems (e.g. bronchitis, pneumonia).
  • Provide horses w