“Bleeders” What Does It Mean and How Can It Be Treated?

“Bleeders” is a hot topic right now for a lot of different industries, and especially is becoming increasingly problematic in barrel racing. In the race horse industry, they are eliminating the use of Lasix in horses for a lot of races, which makes this so important to learn about as well as other treatment options.

So let’s start with defining what a bleeder is. Usually when a horse is exerting itself physically and the heart is pumping so much blood, the blood vessels in the lung cannot be contained, causing the blood to seep into the lungs, eventually traveling through the trachea and into the nose. Medically, it is also known as equine EIPH, exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage.There are many theories as to why this occurs. One theory is that the heart is way too powerful for the lungs or that the cause is

due to a possible low grade lung infection. Another theory attributes it to weakness in the respiratory system or other secondary conditions.

The most commonly used treatment is Lasix. If you’re unfamiliar with this medication, essentially it dehydrates the animal for a short period of time. This elimination of water in the body means there is not enough volume in the whole circulatory system, in which the lungs can not handle the volume causing the blood to spill over into the lungs, then into the trachea and nose. One of the reasons Lasix is being fought against and restricted by certain industries like in racing, is because of the danger of dehydration when it is proven to work and is then abused beyond what is recommended, increasing risks of a stroke in the horse. It’s not a bad drug, but it tends to get abused. Due to the increase in bans, people are looking for other alternatives that do not include drugs, and one of those is of course natural treatments.

The hyperbaric oxygen chamber is a great treatment for bleeders for a few reasons.
1) It improves the healing of the lungs.
2)There’s a theory that if there is a low grade infection in the lungs, the hyperbaric treats it very well. 3) It is proven that the hyperbaric oxygen chamber releases stem cells from the bone marrow into the bloodstream. So if there’s any damage in the lungs, this is going to increase the healing of the lungs.

We have personally been doing some great studies with shockwaves in the lungs and in addition to the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, testing out other treatments with stem cells, amnion therapy and other regenerative treatments. We are having really good results in attempts to get this bleeder situation under control!

To learn more about the equine hyperbaric oxygen chamber and to read our cases on this, visit


So what happens if you believe a horse may be a bleeder or see them bleeding out of there nose? The first third thing we highly recommend is to stop the horse from any high performance activity immediately. Then, if we don’t see blood coming directly out of the nose, we scope the horse and perform an upper airway endoscopy to see if there’s blood in the trachea. If blood is found there,the horse would be diagnosed as a bleeder. Next, it is very important that your horse sees a veterinarian, as there is likely still blood sitting in the lungs that could cause an infection. The veterinarian may or may not prescribe antibiotics, or any of the treatments we mentioned. Even a low dosage of Lasix can be helpful with the proper hydration after exercise, and possible iron supplement to combat any depletion from the drug itself. It is also important to note that once the horse is diagnosed as a bleeder, you continue to do tests to check for bleeding again in the future.

We hope this gives you a great base of information and treatment options when faced with a bleeder, and has brought you that much closer in taking your horse’s health a stride about the rest!