COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also known as "heaves" and RAO, Recurrent Airway Obstruction.
Equine lung disease similar to human asthma. It's caused by an allergic response to the particles in hay dust. Four to six hours after a COPD horse is exposed to hay dust the airways become inflamed. It causes the small airways to constrict (get smaller in diameter) making it harder for the horse to breathe. There is also a summer form of COPD which is more difficult to treat as it is thought that horses are allergic to airborne pollens. This is known as Summer Pasture Associated Pulmonary Disease.
Obstruction of airflow in both the large and, especially, small airways. This is due to spasm of the smooth muscle (bronchospasm) in the larger airways, and bronchospasm, inflammation and the accumulation of mucus in the small airways.
1. reduced exercise tolerance
2. dry cough
3. flared notrils
4. increased respiratory rate
5. "heave line" abdominal muscles becomes overdeveloped
When mold spores, pollens, mites, or other particles are inhaled, the respiratory lining cells secrete mucus to try to lift and discharge the particles, thus stimulating the horse to blow them out (snort) or cough. The mucous hardens and shrinks the airway even more if the horse's cough doesn't bring it up and out.
There are 3 broad types of medications for treatment:
1. anti-inflammatories - used to suppress the inflammation
2. bronchodilators - opens up constricted airways (short term)
3. expectorant - helps unplug the airways, loosening up the mucous
None of these are cures. They only help with the symptoms by relaxing the airway muscle, so that breathing is easier and helping to reduce the inflammation.
Because the drugs have to be given long term there are horrible side effects from most of them. Laminitis, colic, increased heart rate and they suppress the immune system making the horse susceptible to viruses and other diseases.
Free radicals and oxidative stress
A free radical is a molecule or atom that has one or more unpaired electrons. It is unstable and tries to attract electrons from other molecules to pair up with these. This can start a chain reaction with increasing amounts of free radicals being released. If the production and removal of these is not controlled, tissue damage may occur leading to inflammation. This is known as ‘oxidative stress’ and may be an important factor in the development of RAO. In a normal horse, the production of free radicals is controlled and those produced are ‘neutralised’ by well-developed antioxidant defence mechanisms. Experimental work has shown that the major antioxidant in the fluid lining of the lungs is ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and horses suffering from RAO or airway inflammation often have reduced levels.
What You Can Do & Products You Can Try
Antioxidants are sometimes known as ‘free radical scavengers’ and they are able to neutralize free radicals. Horses and ponies suffering from RAO often have low natural antioxidant defences. Dietary supplementation with a balanced antioxidant mix has been shown to improve lung function and reduce inflammation in horses with RAO. Vitamin C is the most important antioxidant in the fluid lining of the lungs.
1. Potties Cough Mixture - expectorant action, expels excess mucous, relieves inflamed mucous membranes, relieves dry cough. www.herdtz.com
2. Organic Iodine Dextrose - Iodine is an anti-inflammatory and expectorant that assists in loosening phelgm, making it easier for the horse to cough. Adding 1 tablespoon of iodine to the horse’s evening grain for 21 days will make the cough go away.
3. MSM, Ground Flax Seed and Bentonite Clay – together work wonders! This great formula is what many are calling the ‘Big 3’ for COPD and other related respiratory problems. www.theholistichorse.com
4. Equistro Secreta Pro Max - Contains 20 selected herbs as well as vitamins A, C and E. Can be used long term. www.petmeds.co.uk
5. Sputolysin Powder - www.horsesuppliesdirect.com
Natural Herb Remedies