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Description of Equine Bleeders/ Exercise Induced Pulmonary Haemhorrhage or EIPH
Bleeders is the common name given to racehorses and other high performance horses who are involved in strenuous exercise and who suffer from nose bleeds afterwards. The correct name is Exercise Induced Pulmonary Haemhorrhage or EIPH.
The condition manifests itself by bleeding from the pulmonary or lungs area. This can indeed look like a nose-bleed but in fact is blood from the lungs being expelled through the nose because of the severe pressure on the lungs during exercise. The intensity of the exercise can cause the walls of small blood vessels to tear thus causing the bleeding.
The number of horses affected by full blown EIPH is small but a large majority of racehorses suffer some mild bleeding in the windpipe. Symptoms don't always show but "scoping" or lung fluid samples taken show up to 60% of horses suffer from EIPH as various levels of bleeding after strenuous performance show up.
EIPH is known for its negative effect on high-performance equine athletes. EIPH is rarely fatal but impairment from the condition does lead to early retirement of horses.
The degree of discomfort bleeding causes to a horse in not known.
Causes of Equine Bleeding/EIPH
The conformation of the horse's body seems to be the real underlying cause of EIPH. The movements of internal body parts caused by intense galloping causes squeezing of part of the horse's lungs against the chest wall. The fine capillaries in the chest wall, repeatedly impacted, rupture the horse's air passages thus causing them to become clogged with blood.
During intense exercise, blood pressure in the lungs becomes very high. The pressure can be so high that it causes stress failure
Some symptoms of Equine Bleeders/EIPH
Dried blood around the nostrils some hours are high level performance maximum effort.
One or more good performances, then decrease of form in subsequent competition
Horse unable to sustain its all out speed, losing momentum towards end of race
Reports of horse getting its ‘tongue over the bit' when pressed
Abnormal or choking sounds during all out heavy exercise
Horse uneasy and swallowing repeatedly within 15 – 30 minutes after a race
Slow recovery and reluctance to put effort into exercise for several days after a hard workout or race.
Lack of vitality, alertness and appetite for several days after racing
Treatment of Equine Bleeding/EIPH
You should immediately consult your vet if you feel your horse has EIPH. Your vet will do some tests by passing an endoscope into the windpipe within 2 hours after a trial or race may confirm visible traces of blood in the throat, upper and lower windpipe areas.
Various treatments will be recommended. There are products to promote the clearance of airway mucous obstructions. These work by applying a muzzle mask which horses seem to actually enjoy.
Products to reduce blood pressure, particularly diuretics can work very well by helping eliminate fluids from the horse's body tissues in the urine. These will ease the problem of equine bleeding.
Products which stimulate the opening of the airways, suppress coughs and clear mucus to improve breathing are also very beneficial.
A lung wash may be recommended as well as various breathing supplements in both oral and patch form.
You need to check the drug rules as horses cannot race with some particular products in their body.
The following herbs have been found to be extremely helpful - Rue, Buckwheat, Comfrey, Elecampane, Marshmallow, Hawthorn, Nettle, Yarrow, Rosehips , Borage Herb, Kelp Powder, , and Yellow Dock
You can help the situation yourself by taking various steps to reduce airborne dust. E.g. particular attention should be paid to feed and bedding. You could dampen dusty feed. You could keep bedding dust-free by perhaps using course sawdust, shredded paper, rice hulls, or wood shavings. Dusty bedding can be dampened with a fine mist spray and top-up bedding should be well mixed into existing bedding.