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COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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Names:

COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Heaves, Equine Asthma or Emphysema, Broken Wind

Causes:

COPD can be caused by dusty or moldy hay, dust and molds in bedding, or pollens, dust and other irritants in the environment. Any horse exposed to respiratory irritants may develop COPD. The longer they are exposed the more severe the condition may become. Horses kept stabled may be at higher risk.

Symptoms:

Coughing, increased respiration, labored breathing, yellow nasal discharge may be signs of COPD. Symptoms range in severity from mild, to so severe that the horse appears listless, has difficulty breathing and develops a muscular 'heave line' along the horse's barrel from taking a double exhalation. An elevation in body temperature is not a symptom of COPD. The horse's appetite should remain normal unless the condition has developed so the horse has extreme difficulty breathing.

Effects:

This chronic lung condition builds gradually. If recognized early, good feed and stable management may slow or prevent its progression and the horse may be able to take on an almost normal workload. If the horse is continually exposed to the irritants the disease may progress to the point where the horse is unable to thrive.

Prevention:

Good stable and feeding practices can help avoid and control COPD. Make sure that any fodder and bedding is mold and dust free. Provide plenty of fresh air in a clean environment.

Treatment:

A veterinarian will be able to suggest drug therapy to help alleviate symptoms and some owners find various herbal or natural remedies effective. There is no sure cure; once a horse has COPD it will always be at risk of further lung damage.

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