Your Guide to Equine Health Care

How Pulmonary Disease Impacts Equine Performance

Understanding how pulmonary disease impacts performance can help veterinarians diagnose and treat issues that could be impairing horses’ athleticism.

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Equine Pulmonary Disease
“Horses need 100% respiratory capacity to perform at their best,” said Dr. Laurent Couëtil. | Photo: Erica Larson/The Horse

Pinch or put a kink in a hose, and water doesn’t flow freely. The same can be said for a horse’s airways, which supply his body with the oxygen it needs for energy production. And while other body systems generally adapt well to exercise, the respiratory system is less capable of doing so, making it an important one for veterinarians to understand and better treat.

“Horses need 100% respiratory capacity to perform at their best,” said Laurent Couëtil, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Couëtil, professor and section head of Large Animal Internal Medicine at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in West Lafayette, Indiana. Couëtil, who is also director of Purdue’s equine research programs and the equine sports medicine center, reviewed with veterinarians how pulmonary disease can impact performance at the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 17-21 in San Antonio, Texas.

Energy required for muscle contraction is produced in two major ways, said Couëtil—via anaerobic or aerobic

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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