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What Are the Symptoms of Heaves in Horses?

Dr Mark is a veterinarian and raises livestock and horses at his small ranch in Brazil.

Weight loss is a very noticeable symptom of heaves.

Weight loss is a very noticeable symptom of heaves.


Most horses with heaves are first noticed because they are coughing (but just because a horse is coughing does not mean it will progress to heaves). (1)

If the coughing continues and the dust and mold in the stable are not controlled, the symptoms will progress and the horse will lose the ability to walk around without breathing heavily.

Heave Lines

Horses with this condition will even develop a "heave line"—a swelling of the musculature of the abdomen that gives this chronic asthma its name in horses.

Weight Loss

It is really hard to eat when you cannot breathe normally, so everyone notices the weight loss as the disease progresses. Just moving around causes a horse to start breathing heavily, so they will no longer run, and eventually will just stand still with their nostrils flared trying to take in enough oxygen.


  1. Couetil L, Cardwell JM, Leguillette R, Mazan M, Richard E, Bienzle D, Bullone M, Gerber V, Ivester K, Lavoie J-P, Martin J, Moran G, Niedzwied ´ z A, Pusterla N and Swiderski C (2020) Equine Asthma: Current Understanding and Future Directions. Front. Vet. Sci. 7:450.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Mark dos Anjos DVM