Home » How Do You Tell If A Horse Is A Bleeder?

How Do You Tell If A Horse Is A Bleeder?

Bleeding in horses, otherwise known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH), is a common problem in equine athletes. It has been estimated that up to 90% of racehorses and 80% of sport horses suffer from this condition. EIPH is characterized by the presence of blood in the horse’s airways and can range from mild to severe. Mild cases may cause coughing and exercise intolerance, while severe cases can be life-threatening.

Causes of Bleeding in Horses

The exact cause of EIPH is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to the horse’s breathing pattern during exercise. Horses take in large volumes of air when they run, which can cause the delicate lining of the airways to become damaged. This damage can lead to the rupture of small capillaries, resulting in the release of blood into the airways.

In addition to the normal breathing pattern, other factors such as airway allergies, airway inflammation, and airway irritation can also contribute to EIPH. Some horses may also be genetically predisposed to this condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Bleeding in Horses

The most common sign of EIPH is a cough, which is usually followed by the release of blood from the nostrils. This blood can range from pink to bright red and can be either frothy or thick.

Other signs of EIPH can include:

  • Exercise Intolerance: Horses with EIPH may show signs of fatigue and decreased performance during exercise.
  • Labored Breathing: Horses may also have difficulty breathing and may be seen panting or taking rapid shallow breaths.

Diagnosing Bleeding in Horses

If a horse is suspected of having EIPH, a vet will typically perform a physical examination and take a thorough history. The vet may also take blood samples to rule out other potential causes of the symptoms.

The most common way to diagnose EIPH is through an endoscopic exam, which is a procedure that involves inserting a small camera into the horse’s airways. This allows the vet to directly visualize the airways and look for signs of EIPH. A bronchoscopy may also be performed to collect samples of the horse’s airways.

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Treating Bleeding in Horses

Once EIPH has been diagnosed, the vet will devise a treatment plan that is tailored to the individual horse. Treatment typically includes a combination of medication and lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Medication: The vet may prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and/or improve the horse’s breathing.
  • Lifestyle Changes: The horse’s exercise routine may need to be adjusted to reduce the intensity and duration of exercise.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct any underlying anatomical issues that may be contributing to the condition.

Preventing Bleeding in Horses

EIPH can be prevented by following a few simple steps:

  • Ensuring the horse is in good physical condition.
  • Maintaining a balanced diet and adequate hydration.
  • Avoiding sudden changes in exercise intensity or duration.
  • Providing ample warm-up and cool-down periods.
  • Avoiding exposure to dust, smoke, and other environmental irritants.

How to Tell if a Horse is a Bleeder

In some cases, it may be difficult to determine if a horse is a bleeder without the help of a veterinarian. However, there are a few signs that may indicate that a horse is suffering from EIPH:

Excessive Coughing and Nasal Discharge

If a horse is coughing excessively or has a significant amount of nasal discharge, it could be a sign of EIPH.

Labored Breathing

If a horse is panting or taking rapid shallow breaths during or after exercise, it could be a sign of EIPH.

Exercise Intolerance

If a horse is showing signs of fatigue and decreased performance during exercise, it could be a sign of EIPH.


Bleeding in horses is a common condition that can have serious consequences if left untreated. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of EIPH and to work with a vet to develop a treatment plan if your horse is suspected of having this condition.

By following a few simple steps, such as ensuring the horse is in good physical condition and avoiding sudden changes in exercise intensity, you can reduce the risk of EIPH and help keep your horse healthy and happy.