Excess Gas in a Horse With Heaves
Is flatulence a sign of extra trouble in a horse with heaves? Might a hay steamer help?
QMy 20-year-old Appaloosa developed aspiration pneumonia about 12 years ago. She was on antibiotics for six weeks and since then had been doing great, except over the past five or six years she started developing heaves. We soak her hay and give her allergy shots. Why is it that when some horses with heaves cough, they also pass gas, at times explosively? I was told that’s not good. The hay soaking helps, but in Pennsylvania it’s tough when the water freezes. Would a hay steamer help kill dust, mold spores, or whatever is in hay to make my mare cough?
monogastric digestive system (a simple, single-chambered stomach, similar to ours), they also have a component of fermentation that occurs in the back half of their GI tract (cecum and large colon). It’s here that a significant amount of gas is produced while the feedstuffs are fermented, resulting in a fair bit of flatulence (see box).
Hay steamers fall into the category of environmental management of RAO. The purpose of a hay steamer is to heat the hay to temperatures greater than 212 degrees Fahrenheit to kill mold spores, mites, and bacteria, some of the allergens that can stimulate the clinical signs seen with horses suffering from heaves. The steaming process should eliminate the need to wet the hay—handy where winter temperatures drop below freezing. Anecdotally, steamed hay does seem to be helpful for horses prone to heaves, especially those in freezing climates.
There are multiple commercially made hay-steaming options available, from those that’ll steam one f lake of hay at a time to models that can handle an entire bale. The commercially available models are minimally labor-intensive, requiring you only to add hay and water, then turn the unit on. For more on dealing with RAO, review “Horse Heaves: Symptoms and Treatment.”