New Information on Heaves in HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · October 9, 2012
Heaves, also called recurrent airway obstruction, is somewhat similar to human asthma. Horses with heaves are sensitive to the dust and mold spores found in bedding and hay. Exposure to these airborne particles causes irritation and inflammation in the airway. The result is exercise intolerance and a forced exhalation.
A study conducted at Virginia Tech University and funded by the Morris Animal Foundation found that horses with heaves have decreased levels of some important components of surfactant, a substance that helps to lubricate the small airways in the lung.
Further study could uncover therapies aimed at restoring normal surfactant composition. Also, keeping track of the composition of surfactant could be a way to measuring a horse’s response to treatment.