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Health

Managing a Horse with Heaves

Recurrent airway obstruction, RAO, is a chronic condition that waxes and wanes. Affected horses experience episodes of respiratory distress.

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By: Dr. Fernando J. Marqués, with Hayley Kosolofski |

Many horses across Canada are affected by recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), a respiratory disease that’s also known as heaves or broken wind. RAO is similar to asthma in people and horses affected by the disease can have trouble breathing — especially when exercising. The key to breathing easy is proper management and early diagnosis. Being able to recognize the signs of an episode and acting quickly will make a big difference to your horse. Many ROA horses can remain just as active as ever. What is RAO? Recurrent airway obstruction is a chronic condition that waxes and wanes. Affected horses experience episodes of respiratory distress followed by periods of remission. These episodes are usually triggered by exposure to dust, mould, pollen or allergens in the environment. When the horse inhales these particles, they cause an inflammatory reaction in the small airways of his lungs. When an inflammatory reaction occurs in…

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