Alternative Options for COPD in Horses

The following is a guest post written by Fonna Lawhon, a horse owner who extensively researched alternative treatments for COPD in horse after her own horse was diagnosed with the disease. 

Alternative Options for COPD in Horses

 

Ray3 

Living in southwest Florida with a horse that has COPD is quite the challenge. Summer presents such harsh extremes, making it hard for a horse with compromised lungs. Six years ago, my new Florida Cracker horse, San Ann Ramone, aka Ray, came in from pasture with a dry cough. Subsequent tests indicated he had high Ige levels, signaling allergies. The diagnosis: COPD. Biannual vaccinations had likely over-stimulated Ray’s immune system. He could not rebalance as healthy horses do and was overreacting to allergens. My vet prescribed Dexamethasone, admittedly to shut down his immune system.

After twenty-five years experience with treating my own animals with alternative methods, I naturally began to question the conventional wisdom. Did Ray really need to be on steroids for the rest of his life? Could there be an alternative approach that would rebalance his immune without having to shut it down? Could we cure his COPD, or at least manage the symptoms, without assaulting his body with medicine that is known to be harmful when given long term?

I had no idea how frustrating, difficult, and time consuming it would be to find answers. But my desire to heal Ray fueled an obsession and soon led me to a greater understanding of the immune system. This understanding would eventually help me to create a better life for Ray.

At first I relented to using small doses of Dexamethasone, but I soon found I was able to stop using the steroid altogether in the winter when he wan’t having to deal with the heat and humidity. I could control a periodic cough with Air Power cough syrup. It contains all-natural ingredients and lasts for twelve hours.

I began treatment with herbs like nettle, mullein, and dong quai. Over time, I expanded and tried gingko, ginger, magnolia bark, and also flax seed. For a couple of weeks in spring and fall, I started using Milk Thistle to cleanse and tone the liver and Cleavers to flush the lymphatic system. He refused some of the herbs at first but I was later able to get him to eat almost anything mixed with the herb Fenugreek. Some herbs needed unsweetened applesauce or a packet of stevia mixed in.

My first big breakthrough was with the herbal adaptogen, Schisandra. It stopped his cough 95%, though he would still occasionally develop a spasmodic cough in winter. Encouraged, I continued looking for the formula to replace the steroid which was still critically needed every April.

I came to believe a vital link in COPD treatment is proteolytic enzymes. These enzymes dissolve the fibrin which hardens lung tissue due to chronic inflammation. Unfortunately they must be taken on an empty stomach….no food for 30 minutes. Not easy! I found a way to  bypass the stomach using a syringe administered by mouth.  I used 20cc of water mixed with the enzymes and a little Fenugreek. This small amount is absorbed by the subcutaneous tissue and enters the bloodstream.

I would like to mention some trial and error alternatives that did not work for Ray. Since all horses are different, you may want to experiment with them. These included Cetyl M, Spirulina, Earth Angel COPD Formula, Herbsmith Formula bai he gu jin san, SmartBreathe, and Smooth Run Challenge with beta-glucans and colostrum. For me, the jury is still out on Jiaogulan, an immune modulating herb I started for short periods but had to discontinue in order to give combination formulas an honest trial.

Horses with allergies should not be given Turmeric, Quercetin, Green Tea or Chia Seeds (high in Quercetin). These will increase the hyper immune state. It is wise to be aware how any herb or supplement may affect the immune system. At first I avoided everything that claimed to boost the immune response. I eventually learned that was a mistake though.

Knowing that adaptogens are perfect for balancing the immune system, I added extracts of Ashwaganda and Reishi Mushroom. Also, for its healing power, I added Grape Seed Extract, which is 20 times more potent than Vitamin C and 50 times stronger than Vitamin E.

Although his symptoms improved, Ray remained dependent upon the dexamethasone at times. This past spring, I was depressed and distraught, thinking I would most likely have to start the Dex again in April. But I didn’t want to give up. I just needed a door to open.

That door opened when I was led to an article by Dr. Brenda Bishop, DVM.

Although her article addressed Equine Shivers, I learned the osteo-arthritis drug Pentosan would block mast cells, inhibiting histamine. The only side effect of Pentosan is mild blood thinning. Could Pentosan replace Dexamethasone? Understanding how Pentosan worked led me further in my understanding of the inflammatory process that takes place in COPD.

Leukotrienes cause lung inflammation, and are 100 times more potent than histamine! I needed to find something that would reduce leukotrienes. The breakthrough came in May. I tried N Acetyl L-Cysteine (5000mg-6000mg. 2x) and Perilla powder (Tablespoon 2x) to block mast cells and leukotrienes. I also added Perilla seed oil because of its Omega 3 fatty acid, which helps to reduce the prostaglandins involved in the inflammatory cascade pattern. So far, it has worked well and I’ve not had to use Dex since.

When my vet came in July for Coggins tests, I mentioned that Ray was no longer on Dex. He checked his respiration and said it was the best he had seen him breathe in the past few years! I was deeply relieved, and deeply grateful for answered prayers. (When testing breathing improvement always look at nostril flare, not stomach muscles on exhale. You can detect the smallest changes.) We had beaten the symptoms but not necessarily the COPD itself.

 

Ray1

 

Since I still had questions about Pentosan, I emailed Dr. Bishop. Soon we were talking on the phone. She is a delightful person and a fine professional. She told me Pentosan could replace dexamethasone, but the most wonderful thing she told me was that she had three horses completely healed of COPD this year using herbs! They were treated for a Bartonella infection. Bartonella? A very unknown source of COPD, to say the least. Dr. Bishop explained that it’s trajectory over time is autoimmunity.

She relayed that one of the most alarming facts about Bartonella is it that should be suspected in every chronic illness or disease in horses, dogs, cats and people! Bartonella is transmitted from biting flies, ticks, mosquitoes, lice, spiders, rodent fleas and especially cat fleas. It makes sense the infection may be the reason so many horses have COPD.

Dr. Bishop advised me to assume Ray has Bartonella until proven otherwise. She recommended the Equine Bartonella kit from Effective Pet Wellness and this June I started it, and completed the treatment August 11th. I’m not ready to pronounce his complete cure, but his progress has been phenomenal.

I feel so fortunate with Ray’s improvements, and my passion and appreciation for alternative medicine has been renewed. Ray is worth every bit of the struggle. He is sweet, affectionate, attentive, and willing to please. Not to mention the poster horse for disposition! Who wouldn’t want to continue the journey with a horse like that!

Casie

Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

You may also like...

23 Responses

  1. Fonna Lawhon says:

    I neglected to mention the important role Acupressure has played in Rays healing. A few years ago I was lucky to find an Acupressure Specialist in my area.
    This summer she incorporated Tui Na with the traditional pressure points. We immediatly noticed a huge increase in Rays releases! I feel Acupressure is vital in helping to balance the body and improve health.

  2. Deby says:

    Hi Cassie
    Our last rescue, Hana an event paint, came to us lame in the back, front feet overgrown to the point were they were mushy from standing in soggy mug…yucky…BUT she roars when she walks. We take them out for their ride and she just huffed and puffed…reminded me of my dad and his TB. Anyways, I tried doTerra breathe on one of our rides…just a couple drops on her muzzle…and voile…no more roar when ridden. We were so excited that she made the whole ride without the huffing and the puffing. I just wanted to share that with you as we had great success with it.
    Thank you for all the info you share…you are appreciated

  3. Betsy says:

    Dear Gonna, I have been struggling with this exact same issue in both of my horses since 2007. My Quarter horse Tricia was 15 and my Arab was 10. That summer they both started coughing. Vet came out gave them antibiotics (no blood work) and said it was due to allergies. By summers end my quarter ran a fever, very lethargic and was heaving and was given Dec. The Arab continued to have a cough on and off with clear or white phlegm. Quarter was fine from 2007 to 2009 when it came back with a vengeance but only during damp, hot and humid weather. Vet put her on Advair to use when needed and said there was no cure. I went hay, took hay samples, gave western and chinese herbs, acupuncture, etc. She passed in 2012 from hepatitis which I believe was due to Advair. My Arab continues to cough. She has been on many herbs for cough and wheezing. I need your assistance or direction. Could this be Baronella? What I find strange is both horses developed these symptoms same time. At one point I also thought it may have been the WNV vaccine and booster that my vet scared me I to giving. Thanks for your time

  4. Fonna Lawhon says:

    Betsy,
    My heart goes out to you!! I have had such a blessing with my horse. He is breathing
    perfect, no cough or wheezing! In December 2015 I started the COPD protacol of Dr.
    Gerald Wessner, using homeopathic nosodes. I just finished this week! What timing!
    Go to his website at holisticvetclinic.net. I wish you the same healing for your Arab.

  5. Susan says:

    How much proteolytic enzymes would you need to administer per day? Is there a brand that you prefer? My horse has been on steriods to control his cough and breathing. Would you wean him off of it before you start with alternative therapy?
    Thanks

    • Fonna Lawhon says:

      Evergreenequine.com has quality enzymes. Directions are included. MSM is also
      great for healing all conective tissue.
      Please refer up to my reply to Betsy on March 16, 2016. The information on how
      Ray is finally being healed of COPD is in my reply!!!! Your horse can overcome this disease!

      • Susan says:

        Thanks for your response. That gets me started. I’ve already tried adding nettle, milk thistle, fenugreek, and dong quai on his feed (because they were easy to buy locally). I haven’t noticed a difference yet, but then again, maybe I’m not giving enough. My horse has been on Dex all winter and is currently down to a half dose. He usually gets healthier in the summer once he is on grass. How would you go about introducing the enzymes? Would you take him off the steriods first? Thanks for the MSM tip. Your post is the first positive article I’ve read about treating COPD.

        • Fonna Lawhon says:

          Susan,
          By all means give enzymes with steriods.
          I hope you look into holisticvetclinic.net and learn how
          Dr. Wessner treats COPD with homeopathic nosodes!!

  6. Karen says:

    Hi Fonna
    I was wondering where you have found info on Turmeric causing a hyper immune state and that being bad for COPD? I am not sure I understand the connection there or what you mean. All info I can find on turmeric is that it is helpful with allergies etc. and helps to boost the immune system.
    Is there anything you can send me to demonstrate what you are writing?
    thank you so much
    Please email me directly if possible – thanks

  7. Fonna Lawhon says:

    I found that information on Th1 and Th2 searches, looking at the autoimmune diseases. All allergies are Th2 dominate, high Ige levels confirm allergies. I tried turmeric a couple of times, it made Ray worse.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Hi Fonna, I saw in your most recent comments that you are now recommending trying homeopathic nosodes for COPD. Does this mean that the Equine Bartonella Kit did not work for your horse? How is your horse’s breathing doing now? Great info in your article, thanks for sharing!

  9. Fonna Lawhon says:

    Hi Rebecca, Sorry about this late response, I’ve recently moved from SW Florida to North Central Fl.. Very overwhelming!! The Bartonella Kit did not work for Ray, but the homeopathic nosodes eliminated his COPD for 4 weeks! Ray did not respond to the nosodes a second time for some reason. Dr. Wessner tried everything he could. Treatment ended mid November 2016. Honestly, I would recommend Dr. Wessner, he has cured many horses with nosodes.
    I relied on low dose Dex and Coltsfoot tincture for his cough.I continued to search for something to help him. On Dec. 2, I tried Black Seed powder ( nigella sativa ) an herb I’d never tried. Using 2 Tsp. 2X daily. I also added Black Seed Oil 10 cc 2X daily. It stopped his cough in 5 days. It is also an anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory. I’m waiting to see how much it will help.
    I’m seeing a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor who has given Ray one session of acupuncture, an electrode treatment, and prescribed a TCM Formula. This is in combination with the Black Seed powder and oil. I’ve
    already seen improvement in Ray.
    I sure hope this update will benefit you and your horse!

  10. Fonna Lawhon says:

    Rebecca,
    In regard to the Black Seed Oil, 10 cc is given by mouth with a syringe.

  11. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for your response and all the great info! Very helpful!

  12. hi…I have an Polish Arabian horse names Baqui…he is 17 yrs old and means the world to me…he is my baby from the first day I saw him coming out of his mother…My horse has this coughi that has never gone away since he ate some bad hay…I had to water down the hay all through the winter…the man that sold the hay to me said it was good hay…come to find out it wasn’t and my horse got sick…He has had this cough for almost 3 yrs. now…it gets worse in the winter…and hardly coughs in he summer time…anyway, the vet told me he has COPD…he has a discharge coming out of his right side of his nosteral which ranges from white to yellow…He has been seen by my vet and she has been prescribing me all kinds of seroids and pain meds…it happens every year…I want to find a better alternative in meds…pills and shots are hard for me to give to my horse…I can feel the pain in his eyes…sometimes his hoofs get inflamed and they hurt him to walk…I have to leave him outside for hours until the heat disapates…it is alot of work for me and the expense is hurendus…!!! my horse gets the best of care and the best vet there is….but my question is this…will he always have COPD for the rest of his life and will it get worse as he ages??? Is there somekind of pill, liquid, shot, or something that I can get to give it to him so that he doesn’t have to endure all of the uncomfortable coughing, etc…I really tearing my hair out and I am financially getting drained…PLEASE HELP ME OUT AND MY HORSE…PLEASE…!!!

    • Casie says:

      Hi Ursula. So sorry to hear about your horse, and I know that must be frustrating. A lot of these conditions take a lot of trial and error and patience on our part. COPD can be managed, but it may never go away completely. I would suggest trying some of the things mentioned in this blog post to start with. Making sure your horse’s trace mineral needs are met is also very important with conditions like COPD. I would offer a good free trace trace mineral if you can. Cut out any sugar in the diet that you can (no sweet feeds, etc.) Also, controlling dust is very important and it sounds like you’ve been doing that with his hay, but you may need to keep doing that. Is the horse kept outdoors or inside a barn? Barns can contain a lot of dust too. Keep searching for answers–there are so many alternatives to steroid injections and drugs. I wish you and your horse the best of luck.

  13. Betsy Dabbert says:

    Hi Fonna, this is Betsy again. I wrote to you back in March of 2016. Well I tried the Bartonella Kit for my sweet Arab and within 15 days of protocol completion her COPD flared up and we were forced to put her on 3 days of Dex and her Inhaler. Her summer was spent on the inhaler and a few dosages of Albuterol. Neither really helped but got her thru the summer. We did have to give her a 5 day course of Dex in September and began giving her Triple Crown Senior and Balancer because of her weight loss. Her body condition is normal again and had not had an episode since September until last week. My vet gave me another round of Dex and told me that I should have been giving her the inhaler as maintenance every day? I was unaware of this. She has also been on Heave Ho for past 5 months but I have not seen a difference and have chosen to stop after this last container. I went back and read your response regarding Dr. Wessner and nosodes and will be calling him on Monday. I have many books on herbs and have purchased some in bulk ie: milk thistle, dandelion, coltsfoot etc but am not sure how much to give and for how long. I have Mary and Gregory Tilfords herb book but it is not clear what a protocol would be for horses. Can you suggest another book or give me a safe starting point. Thanks so much for your help.

  14. Betsy Dabbert says:

    Hi Fonna, I neglected to tell you that my horse is on Chia Seeds recommended by a holistic vet. Should I stop immediately? Second; are you using N Acetyl L Cystine by Smartpak or another source? I also found the Perilla Powder and Seed oil through Amazon and is organic. Is there a particular one you use? Sorry for second post everyone….

  15. Fonna Lawhon says:

    Hello again Betsy!
    Thank you for your update. I sure understand the ups and downs of this disease. If you haven’t, please read the post by Rebecca dated Dec. 3, 2016 and my update reply dated Dec. 23, 2016. I think it’s wonderful that you’re calling Dr. Wessner, I surely wish healing results!!
    Regarding herbs and dosing, I generally use a tablespoon 2x daily. You should notice it helping or not within 4-5 weeks. Amazon supplied N Acetyl Cystine by Bulk Supplements, also the Perilla oil. If Chia seeds are helping keep it up, stop otherwise. I continued my search for something new to try when I moved to Ocala, Fl in October 2016. After trying Black Cumin Seed in December, I would highly recommend using it. It stopped Ray’s cough in 5 days and it hasn’t returned. I wish I’d known about it years ago! I’m feeding Amazing Herbs in ground form, 1 T 2x daily. And dosing Herbal Secrets Black Seed Oil by mouth by syringe 10c 2x daily. A little cherry jello powder in it really helps! Both are from Amazon. I’ve also been using Comfrey Leaf since October, 1 T 2x daily. It stimulates new cell growth helping the lungs heal. To be safe, it’s best to feed milk thistle when using Comfrey. The TCM vet treating Ray said he is using his lungs full capacity! Along with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, Ray has improved greatly. Breathing perfectly at times. The vets chiropractic work is changing his posture opening his chest, allowing him to breathe easier and relax. Ray and I both are very fortunate!
    I truly hope this update helps you and your horse.

  16. With Equine Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, in most cases an inflammatory brochiolitis results from a hypersensitivity reaction to inhaled allergens, as well as non-allergic airway over reaction to inhaled irritants and other substances such as endotoxin. Horses commonly develop coughing, mucopurulent nasal discharge (especially when the head is lowered or after exercise) and increased expiratory effort (often with a double lift on expiration). Often there is a history of ‘snot on the ground’ outside the stable door in the morning. These symptoms result from bronchospasm and accumulation of airway secretions, which also cause obstruction of the airways and often an increased respiratory rate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *