Equine asthma risk heightened by wildfire smoke, OVC prof says

Horse owners and handlers are advised to monitor AQI and take proper precautions

Photo courtesy OVC

To protect the respiratory health of equines, Canadian veterinarians and horse handlers may be wise to keep an eye on the Air Quality Index (AQI) in their respective regions.

This is according to Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) professor Janet Beeler-Marfisi, BA, DVM, DVSc., DACVP. As wildfires burn in nine provinces and territories across the country, Dr. Beeler-Marfisi is raising awareness of the ways in which poor air quality aggravates the airways of humans and animals.

Specifically, Beeler-Marfisi has identified a relationship between air pollution exposure and mild equine asthma (mEA) and severe equine asthma (sEA) in horses. These pollutants include particles from gas and diesel-powered equipment, smog, and, more recently, wildfire smoke.

Signs of mEA can be subtle and require an astute owner, trainer, groomer, or rider to recognize them, she says. Much like humans who suffer in poor air quality, horses will exhibit symptoms, such as watering eyes or noses, laboured breathing, fatigue, and reduced appetite and thirst. The animals may also develop a cough.

These warning signs are important, Beeler-Marfisi says, as they can lead to early detection of equine asthma and allow for medical intervention.

“If you can feel that air quality making your throat sore, your horse is likely experiencing the same thing,” she explains.

Per these concerns, equine veterinarians may want to recommend horse owners and handlers monitor the AQI in their region and adjust exercise time and/or outdoor activities for animals accordingly.

For more on equine asthma, check out the interview below, courtesy Equine Guelph.

Written with files from U of G.

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