How Does Wildfire Smoke Affect Horse Health?
With over 100 wildfires raging in multiple states, both humans and animals are breathing unhealthy air containing smoke and particulates. These particulates can cause burning eyes, running noses and breathing complications like bronchitis. Smoke can also exacerbate heart and lung issues like congestive heart failure and asthma or heaves.
Though the composition of smoke differs with what is being burned, the particulate matter in the smoke is of the most concern. “Particulate” is a catch-all term used to encompass the mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. Particulates from smoke are very tiny, enabling them to get to the deepest part of the airways.
Horses that breathe particulates from smoke may have reduced lung function in addition to irritated eyes and respiratory tract. Particulates can also reduce the lung's ability to remove foreign materials like bacteria and pollen.
A healthy horse's respiration rate should be between 12 and 24 breaths per minute. If the horse is breathing consistently more than 30 breaths per minute, is having difficulty breathing, has flared nostrils, is coughing deeply or has abnormal nasal discharge, a veterinarian should be called.
To protect horse health during wildfires:
- Limit exercise the horse is smoke is visible
- Reduce exposure to dust by feeding dust-free hay or by soaking hay before feeding
- Offer fresh water close to grain or hay; water will assist in clearing inhaled particulates
- Contact a vet if the horse is coughing or having trouble breathing
- Give a horse ideally 4 to 6 weeks to recover from airway damage from wildfire smoke once the air had cleared
Read more at UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Center for Equine Health.