Chronic bronchitis, or COPD, is the most common respiratory disease in horses in the Netherlands. Horses that have chronic bronchitis often start coughing chronically because the airways are inflamed for long periods and less oxygen gets deep into the lungs. What can you do to reduce or even prevent COPD in horses?
Studies show that around 10 to 20 % of adult horses in the northern hemisphere suffer from chronic bronchitis. The condition is also known as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). The bronchi (small branches in the lungs) are narrowed, irritated and inflamed in COPD. As these bronchi contract, the horse has more difficulty breathing. This can cause the horse to cough, breathe heavily and be less able to cope with work. This is because at the ends of the smallest branches of the bronchi are the alveoli. These ensure the exchange of oxygen and waste products with the inhaled air. If the bronchi become narrower, airflow cannot reach the alveoli as well and less oxygen can be taken in and less waste products can be removed.
Relationship with the immune system
Scientists think that the persistent inflammation in chronic bronchitis is mainly caused by an immune system reaction. This causes the bronchi to contract as well, reducing lung capacity. Dust and fine dust in the stable, for example from hay and straw, aggravate chronic bronchitis. Allergens such as pollen can also make symptoms worse. A lot of mucus develops in the airways and breathing out, in particular, becomes more difficult for the horse. If your horse coughs, call your vet for advice. Sometimes antibiotics or anti-inflammatories are needed. The sooner you get there, the better. Above all, make sure the airways do not become further irritated. That means clean stables, plenty of ventilation and, if necessary, rinsing the hay.
Support filter function
In healthy lungs, cilia and mucus filter dust particles from the air. This keeps the lungs clean. In a dusty environment, however, the cilia often do not do their job adequately. This causes the horse to cough and may cause lung irritation. Some herbs have a soothing effect on the airways and replenish the mucilage needed to filter the air properly. These include Eucalyptus, Sunflower (Echinacea), White willow and Schisandra. So these herbs are good to use preventively if your horse is prone to COPD.
In addition, you can support the immune system with a supplement. For horses, plant-based cannabinoids, for example from cloves, are an excellent product. These substances provide balance and boost natural immunity. The substance thymoquinone from black cumin also acts as an anti-inflammatory and forms a good combination with cannabinoids. Thymoquinone has a whole range of health benefits:
- It blocks the release of histamine and thus suppresses allergic reactions.
- It improves nervous system function.
- It is anti-inflammatory.
- It is antibacterial.
- It is antiviral.
Recently, scientists discovered that thymoquinone works even better when you mix it with cannabinoids from plants such as cloves. Cannabinoids have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects and restore balance in the body. Cannabinoids and thymoquinone together are therefore a powerful combination, which is excellent for horses with COPD.
Kaneez Fatima Shad, Wissam Soubra, Dennis John Cordato. The role of thymoquinone, a major constituent of Nigella sativa, in the treatment of inflammatory and infectious diseases
CEPP. 2021. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1440-1681.13553
Ahmad A, Husain A, Mujeeb M, et al. A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013;3(5):337-352. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3642442/
- Leckere, A. Lavoie – Lamoureux, J. Lavoie. Heaves, an asthma-like disease of horses. 2011. Respirology Volume 16, Issue 7.