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Posted on Jan 25, 2021 in Articles, Health & nutrition

What you need to know about COPD

What you need to know about COPD

COPD in horses may also be referred to as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Equine Asthma, Emphysema, Heaves, or Broken Wind.

Symptoms in the horse can be a chronic cough, increased respiratory rate, abnormal 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.

The most common cause of COPD in horses is often an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to the dust spores. Horses have sensitive lungs and can be very overreactive to dusts, pollens, and mold spores. Exposure to these irritants over long periods of time can cause long term damage to the respiratory system. 

Unfortunately, there is no proven cure for COPD. 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 leading to COPD, however it is mainly caused by dust from hay, stable bedding, or pollens and other irritants in the environment. The longer the horse is exposed the more severe the condition may become, so horses that are kept stabled for long periods of time 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. So 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. Straw and sawdust should be avoided. 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 out of the stable when mucking out or bedding down to minimise their 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 incredibly important 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 further problems.

Allow the horse to feed from the ground, like nature intended, were possible. This will help opens the airways when easting as the horse lowers its head. 

Although environmental management should always be the most important factor in the control of COPD in horses, sometimes a long-term treatment to control the underlying airway inflammation will be required. Always consult your vet for the best treatment and watch out for signs that the condition may need urgent veterinary help such as wheezing, constant coughing, rapid shallow breathing, or heaving.

For those horses who suffer with COPD, introducing a proven veterinary respiratory supplement, such as Synovium® Airplus Liquid, will provide your horse with ongoing relief from symptoms and help reduce irritation. 

Synovium® Airplus Liquid has been developed by leading vets to effectively clear the airways and excess mucus whilst soothing the respiratory tract and supporting free breathing. It contains natural ingredients and is safe for long term use. 

Find out more here 

Synovium Horse Health Vets

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