Did you know that the most common cause of equine respiratory, COPD in horses is an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to the dust spores from hay and straw. Horses have delicate lungs and are very sensitive to dusts, pollens, and mold spores; exposure to these irritants over time can cause damage to the respiratory system.
COPD in horses may also be referred to as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Equine Asthma, Emphysema, Heaves, or Broken Wind.
It is characterised in horses by a chronic cough, increased respiratory rate, abnormal abdominal breathing, and exercise intolerance. Symptoms range in severity from mild, to severe. In severe cases the horse can have difficulty breathing, and develop a muscular ‘heave line’ from taking a double exhalation to push the air out of its lungs
It is important to understand that there is no cure for COPD in horses. This chronic lung condition builds gradually, if recognised early management and treatment measures may slow or prevent its progression, however if the horse is continually exposed to the irritants the disease may progress to the point where the horse is unable to live a normal life.
Horses that develop severe respiratory infections can be left with lung damage resulting in COPD, however it is mainly caused by dusty or moldy hay, dust and molds in stable bedding, or pollens, dust, and other irritants in the environment. The longer they are exposed the more severe the condition may become, so horses that are kept stabled are at higher risk.
Keeping the horse turned out, without exposure irritants, is by far the most effective means of environmental control, however this is not always possible for example with horses prone to laminitis.
If the horse must be stabled, you can minimise dust spores by implementing the following.
Choose a good quality and dust free bedding such as wood shavings, shredded paper, or rubber matting. COPD horses should never be bedded on straw. If you are using wood shavings as bedding it is worth experimenting with different brands because even though the majority are marketed as “dust extracted”, some brands are dustier than others. Horses should be turned out when mucking out and bedding down to minimise exposure to dust.
Keep stables clean from droppings and urine saturated bedding to stop the build-up of ammonia, endotoxins, and other noxious agents which can aggravate the condition delaying recovery, regardless of whether other treatment measures have been implemented.
Stable ventilation is another thing to consider, stables should be well-ventilated to avoid dust and mould spores being present. Correct ventilation of stables should be providing a full air change every hour. Ventilation can be provided with extra doors, windows, ceiling fans and air vents.
Ensure you are feeding good quality hay or haylage. In mild cases, soaking or steaming the hay prior to feeding is often effective but it must be thoroughly soaked, by immersing the hay in water for 10 to 15 minutes. Dry areas in a poorly soaked hay portion can release enough mold spores to cause a problem.
Allow the horse to feed from the ground like nature intended. This will aid respiratory health because lowering his head and neck to eat opens the airways.
Although environmental management will always be the most important factor in the control of COPD in horses, some horses will require long-term treatment to control the underlying airway inflammation. Remember always consult your vet. Signs that the condition may need veterinary intervention include wheezing, constant coughing, rapid shallow breathing, or heaving.
For those horses who suffer with COPD, introduce a horse respiratory supplement such as Synoviums Airplus Liquid, known for effectively clearing the airways and excess mucus whilst soothing the respiratory tract and supporting free breathing.
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Suitable for horses with Equine Asthma, COPD in horses and coughs. Airplus Liquid is veterinary developed and has undergone extensive research and trials to guarantee its effectiveness.
- Suitable for horses with COPD, Asthma & Allergies.
- Quality assured respiratory supplement for horses
- Potassium Iodide – an expectorant which clears the airways effectively
- Rosemary – naturally contains cineole which helps to break up mucus and reduce inflammation.
- Thyme – contains a high level of carvacrol. It may be helpful in eliminating viruses and bacteria.
- Eucalyptus Oil – helps soothe and calm a cough
- Aniseed – opens sinus passages for natural respiratory support
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