Support for Bleeders

Posted by Dr. Jyme Nichols on Mar 25th 2020

Support for Bleeders

In studies of race horses, bleeding was detected in 50-60% of horses after one race. In studies where the same horses were examined after three races, almost 90% bled at least once. Deep within the lung, there is a thin barrier that separates blood-carrying capillaries from tiny airsacs (alveoli). This is known as the blood-gas barrier, and its function is to allow oxygen to move from the lung into the blood and carbon-dioxide to move in the opposite direction. Increases in blood pressure during exercise can cause this incredibly thin barrier to rupture, allowing blood to leak into the lungs and airway. Each episode of bleeding causes inflammation and scarring, which weakens blood vessels and increases the chance of a horse bleeding again.


A daily oral plasma supplement such as LIFELINE+ may be helpful in horses that suffer from acute lung injury, such as Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (bleeders). Plasma has been shown to trigger a reduction of inflammation in the lungs. It is helpful in reducing the pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory cytokine ratios in the mucosa which theoretically leads to quicker recovery and less damage after a bleeding episode.

In addition to a daily plasma supplement, we have seen clinical success in using nitric oxide technology, which helps relax blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. This unique technology is found in Surge by Stride Animal Health, and can be mixed with water and administered orally with a catheter tip syringe 1 hour prior to racing. 

Plasma may also be helpful in horses with chronic airway conditions such as allergies or recurrent airway obstruction (heaves). Seasonal allergies and heaves cause the airways to become inflamed which makes it hard for a horse to breathe. Since plasma is capable of reaching the lungs and reducing inflammatory cytokines, it may be helpful in horses with inflamed airways.

Always consult with a veterinarian, and remember that managing respiratory conditions in horses requires a multi-prong approach. Preventing inhalation of dust, mold, allergens, and other small particles is essential in the management of these horses.