Weekend Wellness: Air Quality in the Barn

Keeping your horses breathing easy is a key part of their overall well-being.

Unsplash/Robert Katzki/CC

By Dr. Eleanor Kellon

When the winds are up and temperatures drop we want our horses to be comfortable and protected. Nestling into a cozy stable may seem like a good solution but there are health risks lurking in a tightly closed up barn.

That cozy barn may not be best for lung health.

Horses actually breathe easier in cold, dry air. However, this winter advantage is lost when horses are confined to a poorly ventilated barn where humidity and particulate matter in the air is high.

A variety of airborne substances have been implicated in causing lung irritation. 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.

Keeping stalls clean and the building well ventilated are the first steps in reducing exposure. Using wood chips or synthetic bedding (e.g. paper based) reduces plant and fungal matter but must be used in all the stalls. Horses are also exposed when hay or straw are stored in the same building, even in a loft. Horses with signs of respiratory tract irritation should have their hay and bucket fed meals thoroughly wet down. Always strive to remove horses from the barn when stalls are being cleaned and aisles swept.

These measures will go a long way in reducing troublesome exposures. There are also supplements you can use to assist the horse’s body in normal respiratory function and maintaining healthy tissues.

Exposure to lung irritants and activation of the immune system results in considerable oxidative stress. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant in the lung and studies have shown low levels of vitamin C in the lung fluid of compromised horses. Oral dosages of 4.5 to 10 grams/day are used for the average size horse. Antioxidant activity can be boosted by pairing it with sources of plant antioxidants such as Grape Seed and citrus bioflavonoids.

Spirulina, 20 grams twice daily for the average size horse, helps the horse maintain lung homeostasis by stabilizing mast cells and supporting a balanced immune response. Jioagulan supports control of stress responses and maintenance of relaxed bronchial tone. Omega-3 fatty acids from flax seed provide the raw materials for normal balancing of inflammatory reactions. MSM also assists the body in homeostatic regulation of responses to triggers of lung irritation.

Controlling exposures is the first step.  If you do have to deal with signs of lung irritation there are many options, including nutritional support for normal lung function.

 

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.  www.ecirhorse.org

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.  www.uckele.com.

Uckele Health & Nutrition offers formulas that support lung health.

  • Lung EQ 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. Freshwater blue-green algae Spirulina platensis is a “super food” with extremely potent antioxidant effects that protect tissues from damage generated by free radicals
  • 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.