Breathing problems are a prevalent health issue for most horse owners and trainers.
This is true despite the fact the respiratory system in horses is in many ways protected against invading organism or foreign materials. Normal defense mechanisms like cough or sneezing reflexes, flimmer hairs brushing away dust, mold spores, and other foreign debris, plus killer cells that engulf bacteria, all help to push away unwelcome material. How can we as horse owners and trainers support these defense mechanisms so our horses can breathe easily?
It is a well established fact the nutrition status of your horse influences the immune response, allergic reactions and infectious diseases. The fatty acids balance between omega-3 and omega-6 plays a major role in regulating the inflammatory response. Mischief-making mediators released from omega-6 derivates stimulate the mucus secretion and cause smooth muscle to contract. This leads to narrowing of the airways. Airways ultimately become plugged and collapse.
In addition, research has shown stimulation of specific cells lining the airways causes changes in the mucosal epithelial permeability. As permeability increases, other mediators are better able to reach in to stimulate inflammatory cells located deeper in the airway walls.
Omega-6 fatty acid derivatives are particularly active in pulmonary tissue since they are synthesized for specific pulmonary cells. As active inflammatory agents their potencies are 100 to 1000 times higher than many other inflammatory mediators.
Among the most frustrating respiratory diseases is pneumonia. It is a condition that can crush the athletic future of adult performance horses, but it is an especially frightening disease for foals because of the high mortality and morbidity levels. It is the major cause of illness and death in foals one to six months of age.
In many cases, a pneumonic process may be installed as the result of minor flu or other upper respiratory disturbances. Because of an exacerbated inflammatory response the causing-agent may lead to compromising the lower respiratory tract.
Many researchers postulate young horses suffering from pneumonia later often have a reduced performance capability. Several scientific papers cite a connection between lung lesions due to pneumonic infections and exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.
What can be done to boost a positive immune reaction and squelch an overactive inflammatory response? Reducing the surplus of omega-6 and providing high quality n-3 fatty acids isolated from marine oil on a daily basis would be a good first step. This will promote a healthier balance between omega-6 and omega-3 in the horses? body. EPA and DHA are the two members of the n-3 fatty acid family having the greatest potential to affect this critical ratio. There are an abundance of research reports from studies on humans and other mammals demonstrating the prophylactic potential of EPA and DHA with regards to several chronic inflammatory states.