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Equine Asthma

Horses are known to be one of the most intelligent creatures on Earth and a great asset to mankind. Back in the olden days, we relied on them for transportation, war, and farming. Though we now have the aid of machines to help us out with that, horses remain to be a wonderful companion. Ranging with a lifespan of 25-30 years, they are a big commitment but worth it according to many. However, just like any other pet, horses can be affected by sickness. Specifically, respiratory diseases. Unbeknownst to many, respiratory diseases can alter the lifestyle of a horse dramatically if not treated properly. For example, equine asthma. Equine asthma is a repository illness specific to horses.  

Equine Asthma

An allergic respiratory disease that limits performance, equine asthma is common in horses. Equine asthma is a allergic respiratory disease that limits performance. It’s a spectrum disorder. Based on diagnosis in the spectrum, it shows how sensitive or how severe the signs can be. Thus, equine asthma is an umbrella term that groups together other respiratory diseases in horses. For example, heaves, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) (and IAD (Inflammatory Airway Disease) are all names for equine asthma.  It’s characterized by chronic chough, nasal discharge, and respiratory difficulty. More cases seem to occur when horses are fed hay, stabled, or bedded on straw. On average, the age of onset equine asthma occurs is around 9 years old. No particular breed or gender of horse has a predisposition to this condition. That being said, inheritance is a factor in equine asthma.

Equine Asthma Triggers

            There is one sole trigger to equine asthma: dust. Dust particles that are minuscule enough to breathe in can cause inflammation in the lungs. Therefore, it makes it extremely difficult for the horse to breathe. The amount as well as the size and source of dust all increase the risk or triggering equine asthma.

Think of how much dust surrounds a horse. Hay is one of the main culprits containing countless dust particles. The stable your horse is in, the feed they eat and the bedding they sleep on all involve hay. Even buying good quality hay still leaves your horse at risk for this condition. This is because the dust particles are very small, making them hard to find and dispose of.

Symptoms of Equine Asthma

Horses with typical symptoms will have flared nostrils and trouble breathing. Additionally, some may also have an exercise intolerance. Fever is not a symptom of this condition unless pneumonia has developed as well. The accurate diagnosis of heaves depends on the genetic history and what is found during a physical exam. A few tests are done during the exam. For starters, an airway endoscopy. This will allow the vet to investigate the windpipe and the lungs using a thin tube with a camera attached. The vet may also do a lung wash. This test involves putting saline into the horse’s lungs and sucking it back out. The fluids will be collected for analysis.  Sometimes, radio-graphs are taken for more information.

After all the results are collected, there are a few options for treatment.

Ultrasound Inhaler for Horses - AirOne Flex nebulizer - Equine Asthma

Importance of Treating Equine Asthma

            Much like asthma in humans, you should not leave it untreated in horses either. It’s more than a simple cough and slight trouble breathing. Horses with inflammation in their lungs struggle to expel air. Thus, it leads to uneven ventilation. Part of the lungs will get enough oxygen while other parts won’t. In turn, this will affect athletic function and performance.

            Research also shows that if left untreated, equine asthma can develop into a more severe form of it. With severe asthma, horses may struggle to walk and even become very thin. This is because they use up a lot of calories try to breathe and also struggle with eating. Additionally, heave lines are common in horses with severe asthma. Heave lines are when the horse’s abdominal muscles exaggerate from the effort to push air out of their lungs.

            Even though equine asthma is a chronic condition and has no cure, it’s manageable both with medication and lifestyle changes to the horse.

Equine Asthma Treatment

            If a horse has asthma, the most crucial thing to do is change their environment. If a horse is treated with medication yet remains in a moldy and dusty environment, the condition will return. As previously mentioned, hay is major culprit to containing dust. However, there are some ways to help manage dust in hay.  For example, wetting or steaming the hay. Both wetting and steaming will increase the moisture content and reduce the number of microbes. You can also change the way your horse eats hay by purchasing processed feed. For example, cubed or pelleted hay involves no loose hay. Thus, it’ll be a significant decrease in exposure to dust particles. Another option would be switching your horse to a grass diet if you are able to.

            Your horse staying in a well-ventilated area is also important. Make sure you don’t leave your horse in a stable while cleaning it out. A lot of dust develops while cleaning is being done and it also takes a while for it settle. Increase ventilation in the stable when you can by opening doors or windows.

            You may receive recommendations that your horse also take medication, such as corticosteroids and bronchodilators. Corticosteroids are a type of anti-inflammatory drug. While it may be beneficial, there can be adverse effects. There are two main side effects when it comes to treatment with these drugs: infection and laminitis. Steroids suppress the body’s immune system. Thus, your horse can be more prone to bacterial infection. Laminitis is a painful disease due to disruption of blood flow that affects the horse’s feet. So, while medication may help your horse some way you may get other problems from using these types of medication. A natural treatment that can help horses is salt therapy.

Salt Therapy

Many of us have been recognizing the healing properties of salt therapy over the years. For example, salt therapy helps humans with a variety of respiratory conditions. Now, it’s not just for humans. The equestrian world is starting to partake in salt therapy for horses.

Equine salt therapy is a natural and non-invasive treatment relying solely on minuscule salt particles. It helps improve efficiency and overall health of the horse’s respiratory system. In turn, this leads to additional benefits such as cardiovascular performance. In a session involving salt therapy, the horse will passively be breathing in miniscule salt particles. The salt will help clear mucus while improving lung function. Furthermore, it kills harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi, and soothes the respiratory system.

Treatment Using Salt Therapy

            There are a few ways to undergo salt therapy. While there aren’t many locations, you can treat your horse by taking them to an equine salt spa. There, your horse will have their own space with a machine pumping dry salt aerosol. All your horse will be doing is inhaling it. This treatment is not painful to them, has no side effects and horses of any age can partake in it.

            Your horse’s mucus will thin out, breathing passages will open and lung inflammation will reduce. Any salt that doesn’t travel into the lungs will fall onto the horse’s skin. Salt therapy doesn’t limit to helping breathing conditions. lt can help the skin and reduce the occurrence of irritation and infection!

Benefits of Equine Salt Therapy

            With all the healing properties salt has to offer, it’s no surprise to hear about the benefits that come with it. Salt will help liquefy tough mucus that’s hard to expel. This opens airways and helps expel allergens and bacteria. With natural anti-inflammatory properties, salt reduces tissue irritation and swelling, allowing improving oxygen function. Salt is antibacterial, so not only does it kill harmful bacteria, but it will reduce the re-occurrence of infection. Salt is also antiviral and anti-fungal.

Equine Therapy at Home

            Many horse owners may feel intimidated at the prospect of using this treatment. Finding an equine spa can be difficult. Additionally, transporting a horse can come with its own complications. Your horse may be too old to travel, or they don’t like being on the road. A wonderful option coming out are battery powered inhalers, specifically made for horses. Think of them as a very strong inhaler. It facilitates optimal humidification for the bronchial area. Horse owners have nothing to worry about when it comes to using it! They are very simple to use and effective as well. Designed with a horse in mind, it’s one of the most advanced forms of breathing technology for horses. Furthermore, veterinarians approve and even advise using this tool!

Many opt for the at home method. It’s convenient, more cost-efficient and saves travel time. It’s definitely something worth investing in!

In conclusion, although there is no cure for equine asthma , proper care and management of it can help your horse stay healthy and breathe better. It’s important to notice the early signs, the sooner treatment can start the better. Keep your horse outside when you can and limit exposure to dust. Remember equine asthma is a manageable condition and can improve with the right steps. It does not mean your horse’s life is over. Medication options are available. However, natural options such as salt therapy also go a very long way. Additionally, all horses can do it and there are no added risks to it. Try salt therapy today!

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