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Respiratory Problems

Respiratory problems may be caused by inhaling toxins and pollens which are allergens or "Hyperkalemia" (too much potassium) or high nitrate levels.

These symptoms therefore don't respond to a toxin-binder.

  • Inflamed nasal membranes
  • 'Runny' noses, gunk in the corners of their eyes
  • Blisters/ulcers up the nose (swabbing proves negative for Herpes)
  • Coughing in paddock and/or on exercise
  • Excessive snorting
  • Breathlessness, laboured breathing, out of 'puff' after very little exertion, can't get fit**
  • Wheezing
  • 'Gunk' out of one or both nostrils periodically
  • Nose-bleeding when at rest out in the pasture

 * (coughing during exercise and an enlarged goiter / thyroid gland can be a symptom of too much iodine, another reason not to feed too much iodine such as iodised salt or spirulina).

** Also a major symptom of 'hyperkalemia' : too much potassium or high nitrate levels.

Many horses that suffer from one or more of the above symptoms, some to the point where they are retired or their careers cut short. Once again extensive investigations which involve scoping, blood tests, etc are often fruitless and expensive.

On a sunny day, hold your horses' nostril open towards the sun and look up the nasal passages. Hopefully it is pink and clean looking. If it looks inflamed, or looks yellowy and bumpy, or there are little 'blisters' or even larger ulcerations, then your horse could have one of the allergies we are talking about.

When you think about it horses have their noses down in the grass eating most of the time. Whilst they are eating they are also breathing. There are squiz zillions of fungal spores in the grass which get sucked up their noses. For instance spores from the rust moulds and aspergillus fungi, both very common on our pastures, are known to cause hay-fever and asthma in humans. It stands to reason that some horses will also have allergic reactions to them. In fact some of the symptoms in our horses are very similar to asthma in humans.

If your horse has the laboured or noisy breathing, (symptoms similar to asthma), then he is suffering from constriction of the airways. Remember that magnesium is a natural dilator so keeping magnesium levels right up there is hugely beneficial. Addressing mineral Imbalances is vital, You need to get the potassium DOWN and the sodium, calcium and magnesium UP.

Lush, moist pasture can be high in potassium and is the ideal environment for fungi so is best avoided for horses with respiratory conditions. It goes without saying to feed good quality, non-dusty (dunk in water if necessary), non-mouldy hay. Leaving matter to decay on the ground, such as toppings, also creates a wonderful environment for fungi.

An interesting fact is that when your soil is biologically active and minerally balanced, (ph up towards 7) fungi will not thrive, whereas they love an acidic environment. By attending to the 'cation capacity' (Calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium balances) the pH of the soil will improve. This reduces the fungal populations to the optimal level.

One suggestion in the meantime, is to smear some Vaseline around the inside of the nostril to catch the spores and pollens on the way up. (Apparently you can do the same thing on aeroplanes and buses to prevent other peoples' germs going up your own nose!)

Keep magnesium intake right up there as when magnesium levels decline, the incidence of allergies and asthma rises. (also see Mineral Imbalances).


This can occur when the Aspergillus fungus 'sets up camp' in the walls of the guttural pouch of the poor horse. Their preferred location is on one of the major blood vessels that are right there. The blood vessel gets damaged and bleeds. It's as simple as that. Sometimes this colony of fungi damage nerves in there, which can cause difficulty swallowing.

Unfortunately it's not that simple to eradicate, it's a serious and debilitating condition and horses have been known to bleed to death. Surgery may be required.

This form of nose-bleeding is not related to exercise. If it is induced by exercise there is a different cause.

There is an excellent article "The Whys and Wherefores of Gutteral Pouch Disease" by Dr Dwayne Bennett. Google will find it. Go to 'Gutteral Pouch Mycosis' for more details.

by Jenny Paterson B.Sc (New Zealand)

© Copyright 2009

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