What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is similar to human Asthma. It is an allergic reaction to dust causing obstruction to the air passages in the lungs of horses. It generally affects horses ages six and older, who are stabled, eat hay, and/or live in dusty areas.
Signs your horse may have COPD:
The first signs of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease are often quite mild. Here are some signs to look for:
Decreased performance (usually the first early sign)
Elevated resting respiratory rate
Taking a bit longer to recover after work
Quitting when they normally wouldn’t
More pronounced signs that your horse may have COPD are:
Diagnosis of COPD
If you notice any of these signs, especially if your horse does not have a fever, he may have COPD. Sport and performance horses are extremely susceptible to lung disease-COPD, cough, heaves. Even seemingly healthy horses are frequently affected. Your veterinarian can usually confirm this with a chest exam, but may also scope your horse to see presence of mucus and infection. Once it’s confirmed that your horse has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, it’s time to take action.
Effective ways to remedy equine COPD
Because COPD is an allergic reaction to dust, there is no “cure.” However, it can be managed effectively, and if caught in time, you can prevent permanent lung damage.
1) Lessen the dust – The simplest way to treat COPD is to lower the dust and allergens around your horse. Some horses with COPD go into clinical remission when put out to pasture. If pasturing is not an option, then change from feeding hay to feeding pellets or cubes. For extra measure, dampen the pellets or cubes. Bedding should also be changed from straw or sawdust, to low dust shavings. If possible, the horses in the accompanying stalls should be put on the same feed and bedding.
2) Use drug therapies – Corticosteroids, can be administered by injection, mouth, or inhalation. When administered by mouth or injection, therapy normally begins with a high dose and then is reduced to a maintenance level.
3) Use herbal anti-inflammatory remedies – There are also effective and affordable alternatives to drug therapy for horses suffering from COPD. Herbal remedies such as Breathe Ease are very effective in producing excellent results. In mild to moderate cases, the combination of environmental change and herbal remedy is successful in reducing inflammation to allow free flowing air and eliminate coughing fits. In more advanced cases of COPD, starting with drug therapy then moving to an herbal remedy, can be a winning combination.