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An elevated concentration of irritants in the air causes measurable lung inflammation in all horses. There may or may not be a true allergic component. Continued exposure can lead to IAD (inflammatory airway disease) or RAO (recurrent airway obstruction) in susceptible horses. These conditions have a considerable impact on the horse’s comfort and performance. There may be increased risk of infectious lung disease or irreversible damage in chronic cases.

A variety of airborne substances have been implicated. Ammonia from bacterial breakdown of urea in urine is a well-documented lung irritant in a variety of species. “Organic dust” is also an offender. This includes microscopic particulate matter from mites, plant material (e.g. beta-glucans), feces, bacteria and their products (endotoxin) and fungal spores.

A critical first step in reducing airway irritation is to guarantee good air circulation through the barn. High moisture levels indicated by window condensation suspend the irritating substances, and reduced air turnover allows their concentration to increase. Other measures to take, especially if you have symptomatic horses, include:

  • Pick out stall wet spots frequently and consider stall deodorizers (even kitty litter works) for ammonia control
  • Store hay in a separate building
  • Use wood or paper bedding rather than straw
  • Do not clean stalls or sweep with horses in the barn
  • Wet hay and bagged feeds before feeding
  • Turn the horse out as much as possible

Several supplement ingredients can help with maintenance of normal lung function in the face of these temporary challenges:

  • Spirulina assists in the maintenance of a normal, balanced immune response and stabilization of histamine releasing cells.
  • MSM supports a controlled inflammatory response.
  • Research has documented low levels of antioxidant vitamin C in IAD/RAO lung fluid and supplementation can help restore this.
  • Jiaogulan (Gynostemma platensis) is a Chinese adaptogenic herb which supports normal airway dilation for good air flow.

The reaction to the airborne irritants and allergens generates considerable oxidative stress. All living things are equipped with the ability to produce a range of antioxidant defenses, but these can be overwhelmed. When that happens, plants offer a rich source of antioxidant phytochemicals to help maintain homeostasis. These include all berries, grape seed and skins, citrus bioflavinoids which work with vitamin C, Boswellia, Turmeric, Ginger and Ginkgo.

N-acetyl-cysteine supports the horse’s ability to manufacture glutathione, an important antioxidant. As an additional benefit, it assists in maintaining a normal, watery consistency to mucus so that it can be moved out easily.

IAD and RAO are common equine respiratory conditions caused by environmental irritants. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce exposure to irritants, as well as supplements to feed that help the body maintain normal lung function.

Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya®, offers supplements to support respiratory health.

LungEQ promotes overall equine respiratory, lung and immune health. For horses with respiratory reactions to environmental irritants and seasonal allergens. With Spirulina Platensis which may help stabilize the mast cells that release histamine. MSM supports normal regulation of inflammation. Flaxseed meal promotes balanced inflammatory pathways. Jiaogulan supports healthy histamine levels, open airways, and healthy immune response.

Spirulina has been documented to support the immune system in producing circulating IgG and IgM antibodies, mucus membrane associated IgA antibodies in the lungs, gut and genitourinary systems, and to shift away from the IgE antibodies associated with allergic reactions.

Phyto-Quench Pellets provide powerful antioxidants featuring Devil’s Claw to help maintain healthy immunity, especially for horses not on fresh pasture. With phytonutrient rich ingredients for vascular and tissue integrity, Phyto-Quench fights the damaging effects of free radicals by neutralizing oxidative reactions to maintain a normal inflammatory response. Plant-based phytonutrients include Garlic, Devil’s Claw, Turmeric, Grape Seed, Ginkgo Biloba, and Boswellia. Also available in a palatable powder that does not contain Devil’s Claw.

Bio-Quench Supports horses with seasonal allergies. With natural antioxidants to help promote the immune system and provide protection from excessive oxidation that can generate free radicals. With a potent blend of plant antioxidants, antioxidant vitamins and B vitamins for optimal immune enhancing effects.

Vitamin C or immune support and function, especially for horses not on fresh pasture. It promotes the body’s innate resistance to pathogens and protects against damaging free radicals to maintain a healthy inflammatory response.

Permission to reprint this article is granted, provided credit is given to Uckele Health & Nutrition, who appreciates being notified of publication.

About Dr. Kellon
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.

Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, is an innovation-driven health company committed to making people and their animals healthier. On the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years, Uckele formulates and manufactures a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances.

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