Diagnosing And Treating COPD In Horses
Horses can develop a respiratory condition known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. The layman term for this condition is “heaves” and it is a dangerous medical condition. COPD affects horse in the same way it affects humans. They have labored breathing and is usually occurs during the winter. The disease is an allergic reaction that affects the lungs.
It causes the small airways in the lungs to constrict which makes it harder for the horse to breathe. The horse may be forced to breathe deeper or faster than normal and the condition may cause the horse to cough. Fortunately, most cases of COPD in horses are mild. The symptoms are usually more noticeable when the horse is exercising or running. Some horses can develop a severe case of COPD which could result in permanent damage to the lungs.
Horses can be allergic to a variety of things.
The most common allergen is the fungal or mold spores commonly found on straw or hay. Some horse owners stable their horses in the winter which is why horses tend to develop this condition during the winter. Other causes can be dusty barns or arenas or even dust shavings as stall bedding.
Minimizing COPD Causes
There are things a horse owner can do to help their horse when they develop this condition. One of the most important things an owner can do is minimize the dust in the horse’s environment. Feed the horse good quality hay or soaked hay. It is also a good idea to dampen feed with a little water to reduce the dust.
Instead of bedding material in the stalls, use rubber matting. Shredded paper is also good since is just about dust free.
It is also important to keep the stalls and barn free of cobwebs and to provide good ventilation throughout the area. If the horse does develop COPD, the veterinarian may prescribe a bronchodilator to help with breathing and widen the airways. Doing whatever you can to provide your horse with fresh, clean air can make all the difference in their breathing.
COPD in horses is a chronic condition. It can impact the long-term health of aThis disease is very similar to asthma in humans. When the horse is allergic to a substance, any exposure can produce an allergic reaction. When this happens, the cells in the horse’s lungs will release chemicals.
These chemicals cause the linings in the airways to thicken, swell and produce mucus. As the horse tries to breathe, air is trapped in these passages and the horse struggles to get enough air. As your horse is exposed to more allergens, their lungs become more sensitized to the substance. This disease is very common among older and mature horses.
If left untreated, the condition will continue to worsen. The horse’s airways close even more as the linings continue to thicken. The horse starts to cough as more mucus is produced and the horse struggles to breathe. Mucus may appear in the nostrils as more bacteria is trapped in the airways. This can lead to pneumonia or another type of bacterial infection.
COPD can be medically treated. Your vet will examine your horse and make a diagnosis. They may prescribe breathing treatments and medications. It may be helpful for your horse to have some type of bronchodilator such as an inhaler or a Ventipulmin device. These can also be used long-term to help manage the disease.
The veterinarian will most likely try the above treatments first. If these don’t work, they may try steroids next. The vet may provide steroid injections to help open the horse’s airways. Veterinarians will usually try other types of treatments before they try steroids because there can be negative side effects from steroid injections. These should never be used long-term for they can also lead to serious health conditions that can shorten the life of your horse.
There are some supplements which can help with horse COPD. Long-term use of Vitamin E can help with COPD in horses and can decrease the risk of a horse developing COPD.
If your horse begins having trouble breathing, it is important to have a veterinarian evaluate their condition. While COPD in horses can’t be cured, it can be managed so that your horse enjoys a good quality of life.
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