wildfire smoke and horse health

Wildfire Smoke and Horse Health

While sending prayers and thanks to the folks fighting wildfires, we asked our friends at All West Veterinary Hospital for a few tips to keep your horses healthy during smoke-filled days. Here’s their expert advice on smoke and horse health.

Limit Riding & Exercise

If smoke conditions are likely to affect you running and exercising, it’s a good idea to limit your horse’s activity, too. Smoke contains smaller particulates that travel farther into a horse’s respiratory tract than, say, dust does. This can stress your horse, so pushing him or her to higher levels of exertion is not recommended while the skies are full of wildfire residue. A good point of reference are state air quality websites. Here are a few from states where Murdoch’s has retail stores, but a quick Google search will also do the trick.


Watch for these stress symptoms:

  • Irritated eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Heavy breathing

Barn or Pasture?

Pasture. If the air is smoky outside, then it’s smoky in your barn, too. Because your barn might also house dust or mold, your horse will likely be exposed to fewer air contaminants in the pasture where there’s more airflow.

Proactive Steps

You can’t control the air around you. To avoid hampering your horse’s breathing while it’s smoky outside, take a few precautionary steps with the things you can control:

  • Limit dust exposure.
  • Soak your hay to reduce dust.
  • Provide fresh, clean water to help your horse stay well-hydrated and able to rid particulates.
  • Limit riding and exercise.
  • Limit traveling, which can lead to stress.
  • As the owner, you know the situations that cause stress for your horse: avoid them now more than ever.


Horses that are affected by the smoke might take more than a month to recover. Don’t be surprised if your horse shows symptoms for four to six weeks after the air clears.

When to Call the Vet

If you see the symptoms above and notice the challenges of stress in your horse, you can always call your veterinarian to ensure your horse hasn’t developed a secondary infection, or in extreme cases, bronchitis or pneumonia. It’s worth noting that, if your horse has a pre-existing condition like Heaves (aka RAO or COPD), then your horse is at a higher risk of developing complications. You might also call the vet if your horse’s recovery time is longer than the typical four-to-six-week timeframe.

Veterinary Advice provided by All West Vet Hospital. For more info visit: allwestvet.com