My mare has mild respiratory issues; the vet diagnosed her with heaves (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD). She is fed steamed hay to keep her from coughing. The mare doesn't have problems in turnout areas unless there is hay available, and fresh grass doesn't seem to bother her. She is strictly monitored to ensure she doesn't go into areas that might cause symptom flare-up. Given this management plan, we’ve kept the mare relatively problem-free. However, the mare’s two-year-old colt is starting to develop a mild cough, especially at shows. I am concerned that this colt is developing the same problem as his dam, so I now feed him steamed hay, too. This mare is pregnant again, and I was wondering if heaves is hereditary or possibly a manifestation of low-quality colostrum due to the mare's condition even though she is mostly symptom-free.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heaves is not hereditary. Some people speculate that it might be, but since there are known environmental triggers (dust, mold, and other allergens), it's probably more of an environmental reaction.
Heaves will not affect colostrum quality unless the mare stops eating because of it. If she does, or if someone did have worries about colostrum quality, having the foal transfused with plasma will alleviate those concerns. I will add that there's evidence that giving supplemental vitamin E can help with boosting immunity levels. In terms of bioavailability and effectiveness, one of the best vitamin E supplements in the marketplace is Nano-E, manufactured by Kentucky Equine Research. Nano-E is a liquid supplement, so it's easy to feed, and special processing allows it to me absorbed more quickly than other forms of vitamin E.