Equine chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): publications 1974-1985
McPherson, Ewan Allan
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he condition now more frequently known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been recognised for centuries under its old title of "broken wind" or "heaves", a major cause of illness. It has been known as a hazard to the health of the horse since the time of Aristotle. Until the mid 1960s little effort had been made to separate "heaves" from other chronic respiratory conditions and possible causes of the condition remained shrouded in mystery apart from occasional observations of an association with dusty fodder and bedding.Sasse (1971), working in Utrecht University, pioneered the work which clarified the physiopathological abnormalities of the condition. It was the realisation of this ability to define more clearly the clinical parameters of the disease that initiated these studies in the University of Edinburgh, under the direction of Mr. E.A. McPherson. A principally pathological component was undertaken jointly with the University of Glasgow Veterinary School, under the direction of Professor H.M. Pirie.A reliable, objective, non-invasive method of distinguishing horses affected with COPD from those affected with other respiratory disease was developed. The aetiology was defined and the pathogenesis clarified. Methods of treatment and control were devised and it is now possible to render affected animals asymptomatic by environmental control, so that they can tolerate the hazard of normal surroundings when protected by a commercial product, the efficacy of which was researched here. Many aspects of diagnosis, treatment and prevention were surmounted in achieving these objectives but the problem of recognition of affected animals in clinical recession remains. As with other allergic conditions, this is often insoluble without resort to immunological challenge but future technological developments may overcome this hurdle and may enable veterinarians to recognise horses with a predisposition to the disease in time to take preventive measures.Many stables have already adopted our environmental control measures for all animals, rather than for affected horses only, with resultant improvement in equine health and the economics of horse ownership.