Heat Waves, Pollen Could Worsen Equine Asthma Signs

Asthmatic horses’ clinical signs worsened when temperature and humidity increased suddenly, researchers found.

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Heat Waves, Pollen Could Worsen Equine Asthma Signs
Horses with asthma are better managed when kept at pasture and access to hay is avoided | Photo: Thinkstock
Horse owners in many locations are counting down the days to spring and summer—longer days, no snow and ice, and warmer weather to ride in! But could this change in temperatures wreak havoc on a horse with equine asthma? Recent study results suggest that heat waves and pollen—not just dusty hay and surroundings—could also be associated with increased asthma severity in horses.

“Asthmatic horses already experiencing mild to moderate clinical signs show a rapid worsening of clinical signs during heat waves when temperature and humidity increases suddenly,” explained Michela Bullone, DMV, a PhD student under the direction of Jean-Pierre Lavoie, DMV, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor and the director of the Equine Asthma Research Laboratory at the University of Montreal, in Canada.

Researchers have not yet studied the effect of acclimatization to heat and humidity. However, the team believes the threshold of temperature and humidity that triggers an equine asthma attack depends on the history of temperature and humidity the horse has previously been exposed to.

The study also revealed that an increase in airborne pollen concentration on hot days could play a role, Bullone said. There is no evidence that pollen alone prompts an attack, but it might act in concert with other triggers as nonspecific irritants for the airways of asthmatic horses, she said, adding that “further studies will need to clarify this

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Written by:

Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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