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
IAD and RAO are common equine respiratory conditions caused by environmental irritants. Fortunately, you can ease symptoms by nebulizing. Nebulizing is the easiest and most effective way to deal with respiratory issues. Using the Equi-Resp system with Silvaplex is a natural way to either keep their respiratory system healthy or deal with the issues caused by the cold weather.