Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), also known as heaves, and broken wind is a lung disease caused by allergic reaction to fungi found in hay and straw.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), also known as heaves, broken wind, alveolar emphysema and equine asthma, is a chronic respiratory condition caused by development of a narrow airway in the horse’s lungs. It is caused by an allergic reaction to fungal infections.

The condition is mostly seen in stabled horses and is associated with a dusty atmosphere and mold in hay and straw. Micropolyspora faeni (which causes farmer’s lung in man and cattle) and Aspergillus fumigatus fungus appear to be the cause of COPD in most cases.

Signs of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

The disease affects horses of two years old and above, becoming more common as horses get older. Early signs may include mild cough, slight increase in respiratory rate and effort, thick yellow mucous. heaves-affected horses have normal temperature and appetite. An affected horse may show signs as rapidly as one hour after exposure, with the horse becoming increasingly breathless. Removal of the offending material allows most cases to improve gradually over a few days.

The allergic reaction brings about serious changes in the lungs. These include inflammation of the very small airways, production of excessive, thick mucous and spasm of the airways which may result in their complete collapse. This makes exhalation difficult and an increased volume of air is retained in the lungs which have an overinflated appearance.

The changes in the lungs are reversible with a proper care, but once a horse becomes affected with heaves, it remains hypersensitive for many years if not for life.

Treatment and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

The most important thing in treating heaves-affected horse is to provide minimum-dust environment together with medical therapy, if necessary. Use substitues for hay and straw. Bedding should be changed on a daily basis. The stable should be at least at least 70 yards to the windward side of the hay store, according to the direction of the prevailing wind. Dust should be removed from the stables on a regular basis.


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