Low-Dust Forages Essential for Asthmatic Horses

Ditching dry hay in favor of cleaner forage options improved racehorse airway inflammation.

AAEP 2020: Low-Dust Forages Essential for Asthmatic Horses
Researchers found both steamed hay and haylage lowered horses’ exposure level to respirable dust particles compared to that experienced with dry hay. | Photo: The Horse Staff
Researchers recently revealed that feeding Thoroughbred racehorses in training and racing  certain alternatives to dry hay resulted in 30% fewer respirable dust particles in horses’ breathing zones and decreased airway inflammation.

Laurent L. Couëtil, DVM, PhD, professor of Large Animal Internal Medicine and director of Equine Research Programs and Equine Sports Medicine Center at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Indiana, presented data showing the benefits of avoiding dry hay in horses with mild airway inflammation, also known as equine asthma (EA), during the 2020 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention, which is being held virtually.

“Poor performance with or without a cough together with excess tracheal mucus visible via endoscopy directly after exercise suggest the presence of mild EA,” he said. “A bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL, which involves introducing sterile fluid into a horse’s lung before drawing it back out again for testing) can confirm the presence of airway inflammation, and airway endoscopy can rule out other airway conditions such as infectious diseases, exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, and upper airway obstructions.”

Identifying horses with mild EA allows appropriate management changes to eliminate poor performance associated with airway

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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