Herbal Mixtures for Managing “Heaves” in Horses
Source: Herbs for Horses
Respiratory disease is one of the most important health concerns facing the horse industry, and accounts for one of the biggest reasons why horses miss training days (Rossdale et al., 1985). Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO), also known as “heaves,” is one of the more troublesome small airway diseases which causes an elevated respiratory rate, chronic coughing and runny nose, and affected horses often find it difficult to exhale.
In an experiment using six horses with RAO at a research barn at the University of Guelph, Ontario, investigators evaluated the ability of an herbal mixture (Breathe) to reduce symptoms of this chronic, debilitating disease. Horses were housed indoors under typical management conditions, half of them receiving Breathe (half cup twice daily) and the other half receiving a placebo (equal weight of chopped alfalfa) for three weeks. After three weeks, the horses were given a two-week break and the groups were then reversed and the trial was repeated with horses fed their supplements for another three weeks. Thus, each horse received the herbal supplement in one of the two experimental periods, each lasting 21 days.
A ventigraph was used once a week to very accurately measure each horse’s respiratory rate, and the effort required for them to breathe. Blood was also analyzed for changes in basic hematology and biochemistry to identify any possible side-effects.
Results of this experiment demonstrated that when horses were receiving the herbal supplement, there was a significant decline in respiratory rate compared with when they were receiving the placebo. The difference between the herbal supplement and the placebo was statistically significant after one week and remained so for the remainder of the experiment. The product was found to be safe, with no adverse effects evident through the blood screens.
These results demonstrate that this herbal mixture can be used to treat symptoms of chronic equine respiratory disease.
Respiratory disease is a major concern in performance horses, and intensive research has not yet been able to find a cure for RAO. Herbs have been used with some success in treating chronic respiratory disease in horses (Sommer et al., 1986) and other species (Aqel 1991), and this research provides additional support for this application. An increase in respiratory rate is a fundamental symptom of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease caused by a combination of constricted airways, accumulated mucous, and smooth muscle spasms. A reduction of the resting respiratory rate may reflect improvement in any one or a combination of these factors. Further research is required to discover the mechanism by which Breathe was able to reduce the respiratory rate in these horses.
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