by Brittany Silvers

Why do horses get nose bleeds? And more about EIPH in horses

Why do horses get nose bleeds? And more about EIPH in horses

Depending on which part of the equine industry you focus on, you may be very familiar with “bleeders” or you may have never heard of them before. 

Most common in barrel racing or track racing horses (but still occurring in other disciplines), Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH) is a condition that occurs in horses undergoing high intensity exercise (1). 

What causes equine EIPH?

When horses exert a large amount of physical effort, they must pump a large amount of blood through the heart and lungs and out to the body. It is thought that EIPH is caused by the high blood pressure during intense exercise, which, through some physiologic changes in blood vessels, causes hemorrhage (2). 

Some horses, deemed “bleeders”, may exhibit nose bleeds after exercise, however, many more will have bleeding in the trachea that is never observed outwardly (1). Because of this, it is likely that many more horses experience Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage than we are aware of. 

Should I be worried about a horse bleeding from both nostrils?

While equine EIPH has been thought to have negative impacts on performance, it is likely that mild cases do not impact a horse’s athletic ability. 

However, it is important to consider the long-term health of these incredible animals beyond their performance on competition day. 

Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage has been associated with inflammation of the airways, and therefore may be a risk factor in horses developing Inflammatory Airway Disease (3). 

Overall, health of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems is paramount for proper performance and longevity of the animal and therefore steps should be taken to try to prevent EIPH from occurring, and to treat it if it does arise. 

Equine “bleeders” treatment

The most common treatment for EIPH is the use of furosemide (brand name Salix or Lasix). In theory, when furosemide is administered, it draws water out of the lungs to prevent the blood pressure there from becoming too high (4). 

However, use of the drug is highly controversial. Many believe that effects of furosemide include performance enhancement beyond lessening EIPH, while others argue that there are no benefits in terms of performance. There is little research available to confirm one belief or the other. 

Either way, this drug doesn’t truly treat or cure the animal, instead it simply lessens the severity of bleeding. For some animals, furosemide may be the best treatment for EIPH, however it is important to consult with your vet to make this decision. 

There may be some alternatives to furosemide that can help promote health and integrity of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems in order to prevent EIPH. 

Nutritional solutions for horses with EIPH

Supplements that contain vitamin C and bioflavonoids have the potential to improve health of the capillaries which may lead to decreased hemorrhage (5). A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the anti-inflammatory fatty acids, may help to reduce inflammation and thereby reduce airway inflammation and EIPH (6). Additionally, nasal strips that help to decrease nasal and upper airway resistance to air intake have been shown to decrease the severity of EIPH (6).

Feeding your horse a balanced diet and ensuring proper absorption of all nutrients is an essential part of maintaining overall health and preventing issues such as EIPH. 

FullBucket’s Athletic Formula provides your performance horse with everything they need to ensure an optimally functioning digestive system. Athletic Formula improves digestion of nutrients that are already being fed rather than spending money on excess nutrients that will eventually be lost out the back end of the horse.  

Horses actually receive everything they need in their regular diet, however they may not be fully digesting and absorbing it, meaning they cannot utilize it properly. 

For example, the fat present in a good pasture may be up to 55% omega-3 fatty acids (7). Additionally, horses can receive large amounts of vitamin C from their diet, especially fresh pasture, or can synthesize it internally from digested glucose. 

However, horses cannot benefit from these nutrients if they cannot properly digest and absorb them. 

By providing vitamins, pre- and probiotics to optimize the digestive system, you can be confident that your horse is digesting feed and absorbing all nutrients necessary to maintain their health and combat any issues before they arise.

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