The possibility that pre-exercise inhalation of a bronchodilator by healthy horses could improve their mechanics of breathing and enhance performance was investigated. Ipratropium bromide (0.35 microg/kg bwt; n = 7) was administered by nebulisation 30 min before exercise and frusemide (1 mg/kg bwt; n = 6) was given in the same manner 2 h before exercise. Albuterol sulphate (360 and 720 microg; n = 7) were administered with a metered dose inhaler 2 h before exercise. Each drug was investigated independently of the others using cross-over protocols. Horses completed incremental exercise tests and oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production, arterial blood gases, heart rate and measures of breathing mechanics including total pulmonary resistance (RL) and nasopharyngeal resistance (RU) were determined for each exercise intensity. The resistance of the lower airways was calculated subsequently from the difference between RL and RU. None of the drugs tested had an effect on any of the variables measured, possibly because maximal bronchodilation is stimulated in healthy horses by the normal sympathoadrenergic response to exercise. Therefore, the pre-exercise inhalation of a bronchodilator by a healthy horse is unlikely to improve performance capacity.
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