What is there to know about respiratory issues?

What is there to know about respiratory issues?

As horse enthusiasts, we understand better than anyone else that the health of our four-legged friends is of utmost importance. A crucial aspect of their well-being is a healthy and optimally functioning respiratory system. However, just like humans, horses can also experience respiratory problems that affect their performance and overall well-being. Fortunately, there are several ways to address these issues.

Causes and symptoms of respiratory problems in horses:

Respiratory problems in horses can have various causes, including abnormalities in the larynx, allergies, infections, and exercise-related complications such as Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH). Possible symptoms include coughing, nasal discharge, wheezing, decreased endurance, and difficulty breathing during exertion. In severe cases, nosebleeds may even occur.

Specific conditions and their characteristics:

Roaring, known as cornage, is a common problem faced by many horses. This condition involves a structural problem of the larynx, specifically a paralyzed and drooping vocal cord, which narrows the opening to the windpipe. This results in audibly increased breathing sounds and potentially reduced performance during heavy work.

Another common condition is equine asthma. This includes the milder form known as Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD) and Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO), formerly known as COPD. IAD can occur at any age and presents milder symptoms such as occasional coughing and decreased performance. RAO, on the other hand, typically occurs in horses over 7 years old. It is caused by sensitivity to dust, pollen, and mold spores and peaks during the summer months. Symptoms mainly include chronic coughing, occasional nasal discharge, heavier breathing, even at rest. It leads to reduced oxygen uptake due to poor functioning of the lung alveoli. Due to its chronic nature, this condition is often more difficult to treat.

Furthermore, a horse can also contract a respiratory tract infection, which can be caused by a virus, bacteria, fungus, or parasite. It is important to distinguish between infections of the air sacs, upper or lower respiratory tract. A viral infection will usually heal on its own without secondary complications. Other infectious causes usually require therapy.

EIPH or exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, also known as nosebleeds, mainly occurs in horses that have to exert significant efforts such as racehorses but can also occur in other disciplines. This condition is believed to have a genetic basis. However, environmental factors such as airway irritation and inflammation increase the fragility of blood vessels in the lungs and susceptibility to bleeding during exertion. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize any underlying causes. It not only jeopardizes the horse’s well-being but also leads to loss of performance and disqualification from competitions.

Diagnosis and treatment:

For providing the appropriate care, a correct diagnosis is crucial. Consult your veterinarian. Based on the history combined with clinical examination and lung auscultation, the veterinarian will already have a suspicion of what is going on. For a more specific diagnosis, endoscopy, sampling from the trachea and/or lung lavage may be necessary. Sometimes, ultrasound and/or radiography of the lungs may be indicated.

Depending on the nature and severity of the condition, treatment may involve environmental adjustments, drug therapy (inhalation and/or systemic), or even surgical intervention. An adapted environment with as much fresh air and as little dust as possible is crucial. If stabling is necessary, provide a stable with windows and bedding with as little dust as possible, with wood shavings usually being better than straw. Try to make the hay as dust-free as possible by wetting or steaming it. Adjust the training schedule according to the severity of the respiratory symptoms.

In addition to these management adjustments, supplements can also make a valuable contribution. Supplements are particularly useful for mild symptoms, chronic respiratory conditions, or when certain medications need to be stopped due to the competition schedule.

DBS Equestrian has developed two supplements that can be specifically used to support your horse’s respiratory system. The product Cough will suppress the cough reflex and has a relieving effect on breathing. It also works as an expectorant and has antibacterial properties.

Breathe, on the other hand, is specially designed to optimally support lung function in chronic conditions and reduce pressure in the lungs, thereby significantly reducing the chance of bleeding. Furthermore, it increases the immunity of the respiratory system, contains antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, and has a positive effect on surfactant

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