Thursday, March 10, 2011

Equine COPD, does anyone really know?

From the site: COPD in Equine

*Most often caused by allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a long-term, non-contagious disease that can cause severe respiratory difficulty and distress in older horses. Severely affected horses can suffer "asthmatic attacks" caused by the severe inflammation of the airways in the lungs. The disease typically worsens with age, as the horse's lungs begin to develop chronic and abnormal changes of the airways, which worsen over time with continued exposure to the offending allergens.

The cause of COPD is usually an underlying allergic response to one or many allergens in the environment. These allergens may include hay, dust, molds, feeds, straw, pollens, and trees.*

From Recovery EQ:

*Corticosteroids (prednisone, dexamethasone, triamcinolone)
These help decrease smooth muscle contraction and reduce mucus production. They suppress inflammation, providing the horse with fairly quick relief. Corticosteroids can be administered by mouth, by injection, or by inhalation. When administered by mouth or by injection, therapy usually begins with a high dose and, as is reduced to a maintenance level as the horse improves. Inhaled steroids provide a high dose within the airways and minimal systemic side effects but a special mask is necessary for administration.

While corticosteroids are helpful in the short-term, those with potent anti-inflammatory effects are also more likely to cause problems, particularly cardiovascular, immune and wound healing ability problems, when used for long-term therapy. Corticosteroids may be given in oral form or through an inhaler.*


You can search the internet until you are blue in the face. You can ask questions vets and other horse people and the answer is the same.

*We don't know.*

There is much to be said about treatment and homeopathic remedies. But COPD is chronic, it does not get better, it does not go away. It does not resolve. It only truthfully gets worse as each 'asthma' attack does more scarring to the lungs and more damage.

Doctors and advisers say, move him into a pasture. Others say if the animal is allergic to pollens in the pasture, put the animal in a stall.

No where does anyone have an article on what to expect as the animal reaches 'end stage'. Rarely does anyone mention that the respiration rate should never be higher than that of the pulse rate. No mention of what to expect [other than call the veterinarian] if this happens.

Currently Badger's Heart Rate is running about 35-40 BPM. His respiration's with or without meds fluctuate from 25/minute to 60/ minute on a bad day.

My heart rendering conclusion is that no one can tell me what to expect. So I will keep details for other folks out there with an equine that may be this sick.

From November to December Badger was fairly normal. No dusts, no molds, moderate to cool temps.

In the spring with rapid temperature changes and the onset of pollens and dust, he does much worse. This with or without medical therapy. Heat and humidity are especially hard on him at times his respiration goes above his heart rate.

In short. Eventually Badger will begin to suffocate.

This is probably the hardest thing for me to admit out loud. No one else seems to want to say this awful bald truth, except perhaps our veterinarian. Badger will eventually and possibly soon have another 'asthma' attack in which he will not be able to survive.

Right now he has been moved to an area within sight of the kitchen table window. He is getting extremely clean dust free hay. He is outside where there is no dust. Yet daily he has bouts of difficulty.

I curry him daily, check his vitals and watch him carefully.

Last night I finally broke down and cried. It is true. I have lost my equine-soul partner to a progressive disease that I am helpless to control at this point. I will not let him suffocate and die a horrible death. I feel as though I am on a death watch.

Link to when we first discovered that Badger had Equine COPD, ROA, or Heaves:

Badger, is it Heaves or Equine COPD? March 2010

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