With the continuing poor air quality due to the many fires throughout the west coast, many people are asking themselves what they need to be worried about for their horses.
The most common issues that arise for horses secondary to the smoke include respiratory irritation, eye irritation and dehydration. These issues may present themselves in your horse with red eyes, coughing, difficulty breathing, and potentially even colic secondary to dehydration.
What can you do?
Do not ask your horse to do any forced exercise while the smoke is present as exercise increases demands on the respiratory system.
Wet down hay, bedding, and turnout areas to limit the amount of extra allergens/particles that your horse's respiratory system could react to - especially when already strained by the smoke irritation.
Monitor drinking habits to make sure your horse is keeping up with the increased demand of hydration secondary to the smoke. If your horse eats grain, consider adding some water to make their pelleted meal into a mash to encourage water intake. Wetting hay can also increase some water intake.
Reddened eyes may be helped with eye wash/saline rinse. If severe, call your veterinarian.
When the smoke clears
A minimum of 2 weeks rest after smoke has cleared is recommended prior to having your horse return to work. Ideally, a 4-6 week rest period is more optimal for respiratory recovery. Remember, your horse has been living in the smoke 24/7 so even if you feel OK sooner than 2 weeks, they had a different experience throughout the smoke event.
If your horse shows any difficulty breathing, excessive coughing, severe eye irritation, or if you have any questions or concerns please call your veterinarian.
Guidelines for Horses Exposed to Wildfire Smoke, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
Wildfire smoke and animals, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)