HELPING HORSES BREATHE



Dr. Jean-Pierre Lavoie, of the University of Montreal, is dedicated to improving the lives of horses with equine asthma - a blanket term now being used to describe non-infectious conditions affecting the lower airway of horses. These conditions include heaves, recurrent airway obstruction, summer pasture associated obstructive pulmonary disease and inflammatory airway disease. Dr. Lavoie and his team of researchers have spent the past 10 years working to understand the changes which occur in the lungs of horses with heaves, a condition considered to be severe equine asthma. Their studies have revealed increased smooth muscle mass surrounding a horse's airways as a marker of the disease. Currently, this airway remodelling requires a biopsy to diagnose. Dr. Lavoie's team has discovered, however, that thickened smooth muscle mass can be detected using less invasive ultrasound probes. This technology would allow veterinarians to more readily diagnose and track the development of the disease, in the hopes of preventing these damaging changes to the lungs, and perhaps one day finding a way to reverse them.


In early 2016, Dr. Lavoie hopes to conduct a study on at least 30 horses with mild to severe asthma and 20 controls. "The ultrasound exams will be performed during the initial examination, and in follow up examinations, if remodeling is observed," he said. "We hope to identify horses in the early stage of remodeling, and to prevent the progression by improving their environment, by reducing antigen exposition, or by the administration of appropriate medication." He said the study will take approximately two years to complete.

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From  "Horse  Annual"  -  a  special  edition  of  Horse  Canada  and  Horse  Sport  -  December  2015