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I have recently (about 3 weeks ago) adopted a horse with COPD. When he got to me, his condition was dreadful (low weight, nasty attitude, and incredibly labored breathing ect.) but I am proud to say that he has improved SIGNIFICANTLY in the past few weeks! He is out 99% of the time only coming in for bad weather and grain twice a day, his hay is dampened, and has begun an herbal supplement. He is now a perky, friendly horse with a healthy return of appetite. I accredit most of his transformation to his new outdoor living situation. However, his breathing is still audible when you stand next to him and he does have a bit of a heave to his sides but when I say its nothing like it was, there is no exaggeration. This being said he is not by any means 100%, quality of life has improved exponentially but beyond that.... I have a few questions.

Should/can he be ridden? - I feel bad at the idea of working him (light work only of course, walking trails for 30 min was my thought) but am I doing him a disservice physically by having him stand around in a field? I fear his muscles and lungs will atrophy only making it more difficult for him to kick this.

Another round of steroids? - His previous owner TOLD me that they had tried steroid treatment on the horse to no avail. I have no idea what steroids were tried (if any really, its a word of mouth thing) or if their in affect was due to the fact that he remained in the environment where he was originally infected after treatment. (oh if horses could talk). I hesitate to try steroids due to there long term effects but if they could make the difference between his usability or not, is it worth a shot?

In conclusion to this desperate novella of a loving horse mommy.... thanks for listening. Any advice would be appreciated. I've spent my life around horses but this is honestly my first first-hand experience with COPD so I could use all the help I can get.
 

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I'm no expert about this, it's just what I've read and ask when my neighbour's horse got COPD.

Firstly, what does your vet say? He can see the horse in person and has the knowledge.

Personaly, I wouldn't ride him after only 3 weeks. But exercise can be very good for him and help him a lot. But you have to take it very easy and watch if he can do it. Start very lightly, take him for a short walk or pony him and stop when you hear he is tired/has problems with breathing. When he is fit enough start trotting, lunging him, etc... Then maybe ride. Just keep watching if he can do it. If he has problems with breathing even when he stands definitly take it very slowly.

Vet should tell you about steroids too. Yes, they have sideffects but it helps horse a lot. You and your vet can decide what is best for him. I'm pretty sure steroids can help him and that previous owners didn't try it, but that's only my opinion, I'm not a vet.
But if your horse can get better without steroids that would be better on long term. What I would do is ask a vet and if he says that COPD isn't that bad yet, I wouldn't put him on steroids and just get him regural, easy (at first) exercise, and google for all things that could help. Supplements, inhalators, etc...

I think you're doing a good job, living outside is definitly the best for him. Watch out for any kind of dust! You may find out that he is alergic to some kind of pollen and he'll get worse in the spring (or summer or autumn :p). Then you should think about stalling him for some time until the plant doesn't stop to bloom.

There are horses with COPD that are rideable and fit like any other. It just takes more time getting them fit...
How old is your boy?
 

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Manca-

Thank you for your input. I have an appointment set up with his new vet for this coming Monday so I am excited to see what she has to say, especially when it comes to steroids. Honestly if he can stand around and be a healthy lawn ornament I'll be happy. Riding and driving him again would just be a perk since he's so young and if exercise helps that's all the better. I have been taking him on short hand walks up and down the driveway and it does initiate more coughing, but he quiets shortly after he's put back out or let to stand. He seems to enjoy the walks though (perky ears, perky pace ect.) so that's what makes me think he may want to go a bit further and into the woods for a short ride. I will certainly keep you posted! Thank you again for the input.

Anyone else with COPD remedies? Ideas? I'm open to any and all suggestions!

PS- He's 9
 

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Keep us posted about what vet will say! I really want to know, since the neighbour's horse doesn't get any special care. He is out only for an hour a day, gets dusty hay and no medications. I feel so sorry for him and if I could I would rescue him, but I don't have money or place for another horse. He is ill for a year now. They still ride him, in trot and canter, uphills and I hear him cough when they're on the trails. You can hear that he is breathing weird when he eats... I wonder if he can make it for 3 years like that, then maybe my family could take him. How long have your horse had COPD?

I checked my notes from back then, and I found few things...

Another thing you could try are meds for 'melting mucus' and spreading the airway - vet can tell you more about it.
And the most important is strengthening immune system. Allergies are guilty that horse gets COPD and horse has allergies because of weak immune system. Your horse already has what he needs the most - he lives outside. Google for other things that help a horse strengthen immune system. The thing about steroids is that they destroy immune system so they are bad for long term. And horse can get cushings + it weakens adrenal gland. But sometimes getting horse to breath easily is more important!

You can give him echinacea (great immune booster, I hear) and what I feed to my horses in winter is a branch of spruce a day. It's good for lungs and it has a lot of vitamins (I think C). And it's green so horses enjoy it when there's no grass :p
 

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Thanks again for your continued support in this. He started coughing more and more in March/ April of this year. It kinda just kept snowballing until it got so bad I got the call that if I could get him out of there, I needed to do it now or he was more than likely gonna have to be out down... it was sad. None of the other horses in the barn had any issues, the whole thing was just bizarre, to find the route of this thing is not going to be easy.

On the positive, I am looking forward to Monday and he seems to be getting better and better everyday. I have never seen him this happy and it melts my heart to see such a dramatic change in such a short period of time. I can only imagine what more time will do. I;ll be sure to keep you posted!
 

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I am very familiar with copd and unfortunately lost my most beloved gelding to it a few years back.

The unfortunate thing about copd is that any damage done thus far is irreparable. The more the horse coughs, the more damage is being caused so the key is really just to ease the inflammation and coughing. His symptoms may vary and be eased, but his condition will never improve.

It sounds like so far you are doing everything right for your boy. You've done a lot to reduce the allergens in his environment already but if he is still laboring and wheezy, I'd consider steroids. I had my old gelding on them and they improved his quality of life tremendously. I had him on dexamethasone which he got at least every other day, usually depending on the season. Sometimes he would need it twice a day. I have also seen horses with copd given albuterol but it didn't seem as effective in my opinion. The problem with dex and steroids is that they affect immune response and thus make horses more susceptible to illness and founder. You need to be careful and treat your horse like they are founder prone if giving dex, so no lush grass turnout. There are also some decent herbal remedies for respiratory conditions on the market

My horse had shown signs of copd after coming down with a bit of a cold after he had a bad choke incident. Not sure anyone really knows why horses develop copd so it's not strange yours is the only one it's former barn to have it. It's not like a contagious virus or something that's passed around. It obviously is linked to allergies and other respiratory issues though.

As far as exercise, I'd say just use common sense. If he's having a good day and not laboring then a 30 walk probably would do him good. During hot weather or allergy season just use caution.

Good luck with your new boy, it sounds like he found a great home with you. I
boarded with a girl once who basically ignored the fact her horse had copd and still rode her and kept her "treatment" the same even as her symptoms
became severe. She was shocked when her mare went into congestive heart failure and dropped dead nearly falling on the girl. It was one of the most frustrating and sad things ive ever seen.
 
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