Horses who live in areas with chronic pollution problems, dry and dusty environments or those living within even hundreds of miles of frequent smoke-causing fires are at a dramatically higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
Equine respiratory diseases can also be triggered by a horse’s immediate environment, including barns, pastures and walk-in shelters. Allergies to dust, mold, mites or other airborne particles like pollen are common in horses and are frequently associated with feed products such as grain and hay. A damp environment supports bacteria and mold growth and the heavy air can carry chemicals and particles where they are easily inhaled.
Modify your horse’s lifestyle to reduce the risk of respiratory disease and regain lost lung function.
• Pasture your horse whenever possible.
• In cold weather climates use blankets on working horses, rather than keeping them in a tightly closed building.
• When horses are stabled, be sure they have excellent ventilation and outdoor air exchange.
• Clean stalls daily. Ammonia gases can be released from urine within hours.
• Stall cleaning and sweeping or raking should be done when horses are not in the building.
• Sprinkle the floor lightly with water before sweeping or raking to keep the dust down.
• Use high quality shavings, straw or shredded paper for bedding.
• Store hay out of the immediate stabling area (this also reduces fire risk). • Move hay into and around the barn when the horses are outdoors.
• Avoid riding in dusty indoor or outdoor riding areas.
• Don’t overexert horses on days that are dry, smoky, have a high pollen count, or are bitterly cold.
• Consider feeding horses who have more advanced respiratory disease complete feed pellets.
• Avoid feeding rolled grain products, or any dusty or old grain.
• Be very selective about hay quality. Hay that is dusty or smells musty and moldy should never be fed.
• Soaking hay in water is an effective way to keep airborne particles down, be sure to remove uneaten damp hay promptly.
• Purchase feed and bedding products frequently, and in small amounts to ensure freshness.
Mature horses (over 6 years of age) are more at risk for COPD because of long-term exposure to irritants and because the body functions more slowly and less efficiently as it ages. -- Brenda Thoma