Alternative for COPD horse on Dexamethasone

Deirdre O'Malley

Hi All, My mare Kesa H, who has Cushings, IR, DLSD and I believe COPD has been on low doses Dex for several years for coughing and breathing issues. I've recently weaned her off of it and I'm in desperate need of an alternative for when she starts up again. I believe it's wrecking havoc with her hooves and we're in a tenuous point, so to speak. I think she's seemingly OK because she may still have the dex in her system? I'd like to manage her coughing and breathing with something that won't affect her feet. She abscess furiously every so often... I mean like 3 or 4 blowing out on each front foot. She's in agony for weeks and weeks. She gets PEMF TX which help tremendously,  I put her on Bute and use drawing salves and poultices. My trimmer says it's because of the Dex. So any thoughts on what else I can use when she starts up again? I'm going to try blood work for allergy testing and immunology shots, but that will take months. I'm thinking homeopathics? Any other ideas? 
Deirdre O'Malley 
Raleigh, North Carolina
Joined Group: 6/27/16 
Horse:  KESA, Spanish Mustang mare, 20 yes old

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

I'm going to be blunt here. The blood testing and homeopathy are a waste of time - as in unproven, or shown to be of little value. The blood testing can be so inaccurate you might as well toss a coin (that's not an exaggeration). If doing testing, go intradermal or save your money.

Most important thing is to make sure PPID and EMS are tightly controlled and diet is correctly balanced and supplemented. Magnesium and trace minerals are very important.

Control environmental lung stress with good air circulation through buildings, no straw or hay anywhere in the barn, as much time outside as possible, always outside when the barn is being cleaned, rinse all hay thoroughly and wet down bucket meals, bed on wood shavings or pellets.

This is the supplement I formulated for horses with lung issues: .  Use coupon code ECIR for a 5% discount. If you still need pharmacological support, albuterol or clenbuterol are safe, atropine or N-butylscopolammonium bromide as "rescue" meds.
Eleanor in PA  2 for 1 course sale
EC Owner 2001


As Dr. Kellon stated, don't waste money on blood testing and homeopathy. I"m not familiar with electro magnetic pulse treatments so I can't speak to those.  But Tipperary is PPID, IR and developed ROA (copd) early in his PPID. It was one of the first signs I dealt with. 
When my vet gave him a dose of Dex as he was experiencing a severe episode of ROA, he developed obvious signs of laminitis the next day.  The low levels of dex, I agree with your trimmer, is keeping your horse with likely out of control IR. Which causes a lot of other symptoms, such as poor foot health, depressed immune system, etc.  Putting her on bute during the episodes of abscesses delays the ability of the abscess to be moved out of the foot, extending the time she is in pain with them.

The most important money you can spend right now is on getting an updated diagnosis of the PPID and IR. You don't say whether she is receiving pergolide to treat the PPID.( Her DSLD will continue to worsen with inadequate treatment of the PPID).  You need to know just where she is with both IR and PPID, and those MUST be brought under control before you will gain control of the DSLD or the COPD.  Once you have her on an appropriate dose of pergolide, and her IR is controlled, you will find supplements such as Jiaogulan and Lung EQ will really help , along with management strategies such as Dr. Kellon stated.

A  case history would really help us help you and Kesa. 
Dawn Wagstaff and Tipperary   

Saline, MI  2003

Tipperary Case History

Juniper Case history: .


Hi Dierdre,

one of my horses has COPD problems. Fortunately not the one with EMS.

last year I invested in a flexineb system and it has been a life saver.
i can pretty much manage him now with just saline nebs through it rather than inhalers and powders and tablets etc.
he is in full work and competing again so it has really helped him.

he did pick up a cough a few weeks ago and we have cleared it with a small dose of nebulised steroid. This is a much smaller dose than needed for tablets etc as it gets straight to the lungs where you want it.

might be worth a try - in the uk they do a trial with them but not sure on the US. 

good luck! 

Laura Aitken
Nov 2019