How Long Can A Horse Live With Heaves?

Heaves, Equine Influenza, Equine Herpesvirus, and, Potomac Horse Fever are the deadliest diseases that often leave us wondering how long my horse is going to suffer? Would my horse ever recover? We have previously communicated “how long a horse can live with EPM?” In detail, it took us a while to discuss another deadly horse disease, Heaves, but better late than never!

In this article, we would be enlightening how long a horse can live with Heaves? And what else you need to know about this deadly disease. To be able to acknowledge how much time do horses have left to live, we need to know this disease deeply. 

Heave is a common name we use to refer to the “Recurrent Airway Obstruction” or “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease” disease. It’s an allergic-based disease similar to asthma that directly affects the horse’s ability to breathe. It often affects the horses at the age of 6 or above. Mild cases or early detection can be cured but the severity or carelessness of the horse enthusiasts can kill the horse.

You might have got to know that it’s quite fair to think how much time a severely affected horse has left to live? So, let’s move ahead and discuss what needs to be discussed right now. Starting with the most Googled questions.

How long can a horse live with Heaves?

To be very honest, it’s even hard for a vet to tell how long a horse can survive with this deadly disease. The well-pampered horses get to live more whereas the carelessness can take the horse down within a matter of months.

How long can a horse live with Heaves? Some horses manage to survive 6 months and some do not even go more than 3 to 4 months. Only the severity of the disease would help you predict how long your horse would be going to live.

Why is it so hard to judge how long a horse can live with heaves?

It’s super hard to judge how long would a horse be living and breathing with us as it depends on the severity of the disease and the quality of treatment being provided.

If the horse enthusiast is taking care of the horse well, the horse may survive longer than the expected time.  If the disease is out of hand, the horse may not be able to celebrate the next easter with you. 

How would you know that the disease is going to take the horse’s life soon?

The horse would be leaving soon for eternal peace when the signs become obvious. Difficulty in breathing, nostril-flaring, visible heaving, frequent coughing, exercise intolerance, and wheezing are the signs of the severity of this deadly disease.

How Heaves get confirmed?

Heaves are normally confirmed either by the presence of inflammatory cells in the airway secretions or by the thorough examination of fluid samples obtained from the lungs. 

Now that it’s clear that it’s hard to judge how long a can horse live with Heaves as it depends on the severity and the quality of treatment the horse is receiving.

The horse would not be able to survive more than six months once the horse starts finding it difficult to breathe.

Moreover, nostrils-flaring, visible heaving, frequent coughing, exercise intolerance, and wheezing can also be taken as a sign that you would be needing a replacement pretty soon.


Everything about Heaves

Heaves are incurable once it reaches a certain stage

Heaves are curable when it began affecting the horses but once it takes hold of the horse’s lungs, no treatment, precautionary measures can save the horse. That’s why we often find horse enthusiasts questioning how long their horse is going to suffer? Or how long a horse can live with Heaves?

Early detection can make it curable 

It is generally considered incurable, but early detection can make it treatable. It’s important to mention here, even if the stage is treatable, home remedies can not be the cure. An expensive vet treatment would only help in curing the disease. (Source)

Heaves are carried through pollen, dust, or air

Since it is an allergic disease, it is carried through air, dust, and pollen. When the horse breathes in such an environment, the cells in the horse’s lungs release chemicals that produce mucus, thicken and swell the air passage linings.

The air gets trapped and the horse has to do more effort to expel the trapped air. With time, the airways get thicker, more mucus is produced, the horse began coughing and wheezing. 

The most common symptoms of Heaves severity 

Increased respiratory rate and the use of abdominal muscles are the common signs of severity. Once the horse starts breathing abnormally using abdominal muscles to push air out, it can be taken as a sign that the disease has gotten out of hands.

Moreover, coughing, nasal discharge, abnormal lung sounds, and sudden weight loss are the alarms to a more serious condition. 


It’s must be clear that this disease can not be treated, but a few precautionary measures can minimize the damage. The horse enthusiasts can prevent damage to the lungs by providing more fresh air, good ventilation inside the barn, and moistening his bedding. If the attack keeps getting worse the vets use medication and several medical treatments to bring down the severity. 

It can be prevented to some extent 

To prevent heaves, it is recommended to treat horses with fresh dust-free grass and pelleted feed. Moreover, stalls must be cleaned thoroughly to prevent it from happening in the first place. Minimum dust exposure would also keep this deadly disease at bay. 


As the worth-sharing information is served, it’s time to answer the most frequently asked questions;

Can you treat Heaves naturally? 

The damage can be minimized but this disease can not be treated at all neither naturally nor medically. You can bring down the damage by keeping the barn clean, feeding pellets quite often, moistening his bedding, and avoiding dusty indoor arenas. 

Can a horse with Heaves be ridden? 

Well, a horse with a mild attack can be ridden but it’s cruel to ride the horse in such a condition. Once the horse’s condition gets worsened, the horse can’t carry a human on his back with breathing abnormally. 

Is there a cure for Heaves? 

No, unfortunately, the cure has not been discovered yet. It usually ends up taking the horse’s life. 

How do I know if the horse has Heaves? 

You can judge if the horse has Heaves or not by observing the signs. Difficulty in breathing, use of abdominal muscles to pass out air, nasal discharge, coughing, and wheezing, abnormal lung sounds, and sudden weight loss are the signs of this deadly horse disease called “Heaves” or “Recurrent Airway Obstruction”. 

In brief, it’s hard to tell how long a horse suffering from Heaves can live as it depends on the severity of the disease and the quality of the treatment the horse is receiving. Generally, the horses are not seen surviving more than six months.

This deadly disease is not curable however it can be prevented to some extent by taking the vet’s suggested precautionary measures. The symptoms of Recurrent Airway Obstruction or Heaves are; nasal discharge, coughing, wheezing, sudden weight loss, and difficulty in breathing. 

Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers. I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.

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