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Your Horses Lungs Are Special. Look after them

If your horse shows signs of a respiratory problem call your vet first don't wait to see if things improve, as soon as a diagnosis is given the more liklehood there is of success and to firstly rule out any viruses. The longer the problem is left and untreated more damage to the airways and lungs will result. Once the lungs are damaged that's it, you cannot repair them.

Drugs from your vet can help to suppress the coughing and wheezing and help him live more comfortably but it is your stable management that is important in these cases.

COPD is the most common of respiratory problems and is usually the result in the way we manage are horses, it cannot be cured but it can be managed. It is you the horse owner that is responsible for managing his welfare, the clue is to remove the offending material that is causing it usually the moulds that grow on hay or straw.

The horse doesn't get COPD overnight it is usually the result of years or months of exposure to the offending spores. Or sometimes after a viral infection.

COPD can vary greatly in its severity from showing virtually no signs at all to cases where the horse shows signs of distress as it fights for breath.   Some horses wheeze or grunt when they are breathing at rest, these are not equine atheletes but horses with COPD the most common type of equine lung disease.

Here are some management techniques to help you to improve your horses environment and help him to cope with this allergy. These tips are also good as preventative measures too.

  • If your horse has a persistant cough it should not be doing any work at all. The lungs will be put under even more stress and more permanent damage will result. After all would you run about for half an hour or more if you had a lung disease?
  • Horses with COPD should receive as much fresh air as possible and ideally live out.
  • Many horse owners make the mistake of trying to keep the horse warm if it is stabled in the winter by closing windows and doors. Ventilation is vital in the stable.
  • Don't muck out or brush up while your horse is in the stable.
  • Firstly many owners sprinkle the hose pipe through their hay. This is a waste of time, hay needs to be totally submerged for at least twenty minutes. Better still feed an alternative forage such as haylage as soaking hay also reduces the nutritional quality.
  • Stay clear of straw beds. Shavings are more suitable.
  • Even though COPD is an allergy to mould spores breathing in dust when the lungs are already damaged cannot be good either. Don't use the cheapest form of shavings you can find you will often find these are the most dusty. There is a big difference between dust extracted bedding and dust free. Do a test. Take a small mirror into the stable with you while you are mucking out. When you have finished see how much dust has accumulated in the short time you have been in the stable. Your horse spends hours in there and you have only been in there for a short while. This is the air that he is breathing. Does the sun shine through the stable? If so you can usually see the dust present in the air. If you can't find good quality bedding then rubber matting would be better.

More articles and research can be seen at the following links

Small Airway Disease And Equine Respiratory Health

In Depth Veterinary Article about COPD

Recent And Current Research by the Equine Pulmonary Laboratory


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