Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price
Horses suffering from inflammatory airway disease (also known as heaves) can lose their ability to be athletes. The onset of the disease is often subtle. There may be a slight change in stamina, intermittent wheezing and occasional coughing. Many horses suffering from exercise intolerance eventually develop heaves. However, this is not a common occurrence for many years.
Researchers have found that the severity of disease signs correlates with the significance of endobronchial biopsy to determine airway inflammation. A study* was conducted at the Universite de Montreal in Canada. It involved 18 horses. Six of them were healthy, while 12 had heaves. Six of the twelve horses with heaves were healthy, and the others had typical symptoms. Blind assessors scored each horse’s biopsies using predetermined inflammatory parameters and morphological parameters. Scores from biopsies revealed that active heaves horses had more disease than those in remission and control.
Horse owners can use specific management strategies to address heaves. They can determine immediately, sometimes in just hours, if this will bring relief for their horse.
Stalled horses can be moved to the outside or extended outside time. This is a common practice. If this is impossible, horses can be helped by increasing ventilation and bedding that is low in dust options like wood byproducts. Additionally, horses can be helped by purchasing clean hay that is free from mold or dust and then soaking it or steaming it before they are fed. This will reduce inhaled particles.
A veterinarian should always be first to treat persistent heaves and other respiratory problems. However, simple changes in diet can help prevent acute episodes. “Omega-3 fatty acids have well-known antiinflammatory properties and are a popular nutritional supplement,” Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research.
Flaxseed oil or flaxseed oil are the most popular omega-3 supplements. However, fish oil is growing in popularity. DHA and EPA are both found in fish oils, making them the best source of omega-3 fatty acids for their health benefits. Flaxseeds and their byproducts are rich in ALA. This must be converted into DHA and EPA. It is a complex and slow process. Whitehouse advised that you use a marine-derived source of omega-3 supplements for optimal results.