Equine Salt Therapy For Equine Asthma

How Salt Therapy Can Help Alleviate Equine Asthma

Breathing: One of the only functions in our bodies that can be controlled both on a voluntary basis (when we are thinking about it) or an involuntary basis (automatic). It is so important for sustaining life that our bodies don’t leave it up to our memory or attention span. 

In the same way it is important to humans, nothing is more vital to a horse than its respiratory health. Without normal breath, we quite literally would not be alive. 

That’s why asthma is addressed immediately in people and horses with asthma must be treated the same way. 

For horses to flourish and prosper in general, much less succeed as athletes in sports such as horse racing, jumping, and polo, a horse’s respiratory health must function properly by effortlessly pumping massive amounts of air in and out of the body.

At rest, a healthy horse takes between 10 to 14 breaths per minute and inhales approximately 150 liters of air. Just like humans, horses can suffer from asthma. 

Commonly referred to as equine asthma, this condition causes the horse to cough, wheeze and struggle to breathe due to airway inflammation and mucus accumulation.

What causes asthma in horses?

Also known more technically as Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD) and Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO, or heaves), it has been reported that the risk of equine asthma increases by a factor of 6 or 7 in horses over the age of 7, which is a time when many performance horses are coming into their prime, either in the arena or the breeding shed. 

Beyond just overall health, efficient athletic performance for a horse suffering from equine asthma is nearly impossible.

So why can horses get asthma in the first place?

Asthma in horses is accepted as an allergic, immune disease. Clinically, equine asthma is divided into “mild/moderate” and “severe” cases. 

Mild or moderate equine asthma describes horses with non-specific signs, such as increased time to recover after exercise, subpar performance, or occasional coughing and nasal discharge. Studies show that there is evidence of mild/moderate equine asthma in up to 80% of Thoroughbred racehorses, so it is important to pay attention to small signs and changes in your horse. 

Severe equine asthma is very noticeable and most commonly presents as a horse that suffers from labored breathing, even at rest. This form of asthma in horses is also typically associated with a chronic cough, nasal discharge, and exercise intolerance.

For some horses, asthma is seasonal, especially depending on the climate. Some suffer from Summer Pasture-Associated Severe Equine Asthma, which normally presents during hot, humid conditions due to pollen or fungus that a horse is sensitive to. 

Some other causes of asthma in horses include:

  • Feed issues, such as dust, fines, or moldy hay or grain
  • Exposure to allergens and high dust environments while exercising or in their stalls 
  • Vaccinations
  • Travel 
  • Dusty bedding or a sensitivity to a type of bedding
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Exercise conditions
  • Infection of the upper and lower airways
A Horse In A Salt Room Next To A Halogenerator For A Salt Therapy Session To Combat Equine Asthma.

Conventional approaches to treating asthma in horses

In traditional clinical settings, asthma in horses treatment involves a three-step plan:

  1. Environmental management: Managing your horse’s exposure to dust, allergens, and mold is one of the most important steps you can take. In other words, you have to remove the trigger in order to effectively treat asthma in horses. This can be done by becoming a vigilant observer at the barn. Look for excessive dust in bedding, hay, and feed. Observe where pollen and allergens may be originating from. Make the changes that you have control over, such as switching your horse to a different hay or feed, choosing low-dust bedding, keeping dust down by spraying the barn aisle and stalls with water, or removing your horse from pastures with high allergen content.
  2. Steroid medications: There are some parts of the environment that will be out of your control, especially depending on the season and where you live. Steroids can help reduce inflammation in the airways, but will not treat or “fix” equine asthma. Of course, as with any medication, there are risks that come along with this form of treatment.
  3. Bronchodilators: Bronchodilators (called inhalers in human medicine) will help dilate the airways and improve airflow during a spasm or when needed for short-term relief. These should be used as a last resort and are not going to fix the problem in the long term.

Salt therapy for asthma in horses

Fortunately, there is another often overlooked, natural treatment modality for equine asthma. 

Salt therapy, or halotherapy, is the use of dry salt to help clean the horse’s respiratory tract.

Due to their large lung capacity, horses tend to have issues with normal mucociliary clearance, the body’s process of removing toxins and waste from the airways. 

According to the Salt Therapy Association, over a series of sessions, inhalation of dry salt aerosol will work to decrease or eliminate bronchial inflammation and pathogenic microorganisms, as well as reduce bronchial hyper-responsiveness.

Undergoing regular salt therapy treatments will clean a horse’s respiratory system, which, in turn, can produce an improvement in lung function. 

The benefits of equine salt therapy for treating asthma include:

  • Increased oxygen-carrying capacity
  • Decreased incidence of spasmodic attacks 
  • Clearer airways 
  • Cleared mucus from the equine respiratory system 
  • Acting as an effective decongestant 
  • Reducing inflammation in the lungs
  • Strengthening the horse’s immune system and natural defense mechanisms
  • Increased stamina and exercise tolerance
  • Improved performance 
  • Eliminates the need for medications and drugs
  • No discomfort or side effects

How equine salt therapy works to combat asthma

Salt therapy is accessible for any horse owner looking to create a “DIY salt therapy for horses” space.

By partnering with SALT Chamber, you can create an equine salt therapy room in your barn or facility with the SALT FX® Pro Halogenerator.

With our guidance and consultation, you will create a salt room in a stall or mobile trailer. The horse will breathe in the dry salt aerosol created by the halogenerator

A halogenerator is a machine that grinds, crushes, and disperses pure-grade sodium chloride as an aerosol. 

As the horse inhales the aerosol, the dry salt goes to work inside the respiratory system by acting as an antibacterial agent, clearing secretions and dissolving bacteria and pollutants lodged in the respiratory tract. 

Ultimately, this lessens inflammation in the lungs, thins out mucus build-up, improves lung function, and opens breathing passages.

Some of our current client success stories have occurred at: 

  • World Equestrian Center – Ocala, Florida
  • Hagyard Equine Medical Institute – Lexington, Kentucky
  • Vaccarezza Racing Stables – Boynton Beach, Florida
  • JRs Equine Spa and Retreat – Pleasant Hope, Missouri
  • Hauck Racing Stable – Anderson, Indiana
  • Eclipse Equine Sports Therapy Center – Atascadero, California
  • Rookery Equine Spa & Therapy, Ltd. – Cheshire, United Kingdom

Vaccarezza also has a mobile trailer for equine salt therapy at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, while Eclipse Equine uses their mobile trailer at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

Prevent equine asthma with salt therapy today!

Salt therapy may help prevent asthma and other respiratory issues by improving the clearance of triggering allergens, reducing inflammation, and opening airways. 

While you cannot control everything in the environment or keep your horse in bubble wrap, they are not sentenced to a lifetime of breathing issues or medications. 

Using halotherapy is an incredible solution to a problem that is seen far too often in the performance horse and racing worlds. 

Contact SALT Chamber today to set up a free consultation and learn more!