May 13 2010
The respiratory health of horses and their owners is affected by the quality of the air they breathe. We are all familiar with the smell of ammonia that comes from soiled bedding, but how many of us appreciate the adverse health effects it can cause in both our horses and ourselves?
What is ammonia and where does it come from?
Ammonia is a noxious gas with a characteristic pungent odour that is present in the stable environment. It is produced from a substance called urea, that is passed in horse urine and faeces. Urea is converted to ammonia in wet horse bedding, by the action of bacteria present in the stables environment. These bacteria produce an enzyme ‘urease’ which drives the conversion of urea to ammonia. Management practices affect the levels of ammonia present in the stable. Production and build-up of ammonia in stable bedding is exacerbated in deep littering systems, such as those used with hemp, woodchips and shavings. Also this problem can occur when rubber matting is used with little or no bedding and when stable drainage and ventilation is poor, or soiled bedding is simply allowed to accumulate. Levels of ammonia in the air are worse during mucking-out and if straw is used as bedding. Ammonia can also be absorbed into the structures of the stable or loose box, particularly timber and semi-porous floors and will continue to escape back into the air, even after the stable has been mucked out. It can also be trapped under rubber matting placed on floors of Horse stables.
Ammonia and respiratory health
When ammonia combines with water in body tissues, it becomes extremely irritating and harmful to the sensitive eye membraines, sinuses and respiratory system. In humans, short-term exposure to high levels of ammonia can cause upper and lower respiratory tract irritation and oedema and, over the long-term, can cause chronic bronchitis and may exacerbate occupational lung diseases including asthma. In horses, ammonia restricts the movement of cilia (brush-like hairs) in the airways that filter out harmful dust particles and its corrosive action causes inflammation and a build up of mucous. Excessive ammonia inhalation in horses is thought to be a significant contributing factor in recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) formally known as COPD and lower respiratory tract inflammation of small airway disease. Persistent airborne ammonia exposure can also lead to an impaired response to respiratory bacterial and viral threats and has been linked to eye irritation and reduced hoof integrity.
How Can Stall Genie Help?
Simple, by absorbing and eliminating deadly ammonia fumes and moisture. The absorption of moisture will help eliminate populations of parasites and flies which thrive with moisture, while the Ammonia absorption will improve the health of your horses and foals reducing veterinarian bills and resulting in a happier healthier horse.