Causes and Treatment of Equine Cough

(Chris) Hello and welcome to Horsin’ Around. I’m Dr. Chris Blevins at Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center, today joined by Dr. Beth Davis. Welcome. (Beth) Thank you. (Chris) Dr. Davis is a professor here in the Equine Section and head of the Equine Section here at Kansas State Veterinary Health Center. Today I think would be a great aspect and topic to talk about just the horse that is coughing and maybe even causes of a horse that would cough, would be a good place to start. Because, you know, horses are traveling and there’s a lot of horses around potentially coughing and maybe some issues with that. So, what would be some causes of horses to cough? (Beth) Yea, absolutely, it’s a great question and one that certainly is relevant at this time of year, because we do hear them do that. So, I think as horse owners and as horse professionals, we all know that horses are gonna cough here and there. So, an occasional cough really we probably can brush off, not a huge deal. I think where we get concerned is where we have a horse that continues to cough or perhaps even a horse that isn’t quite themselves and has a cough to go along with it. So, we often break that cough down into-do you think it is a result of infectious disease versus non-infectious disease? And so when we talk about things like infectious disease we might be talking about something like a respiratory infection with a bacteria or perhaps a virus. So things like a fever that might go along with it, which could result in a horse being a little bit not themselves, and maybe they need some treatment. So maybe we need to take a closer look and have a veterinarian take a peek. (Chris) OK. And then as far as we kind of talked a little bit about that of infectious. What would be even some I guess, non-infectious causes of coughing? (Beth) Sure. Absolutely. So, that would be the horse, they kinda seem like themselves, maybe they’re not quite right, but basically doing OK, but you do hear this cough. And sometimes that’s gonna be with exercise. Sometimes it’s not even with exercise, you just see them at rest or out in the pasture by the round bale and they’ve got some cough. And so, when we talk about non-infectious respiratory disease and a cough, we think about things like maybe what we call inflammatory airway disease where we have some inflammation of the lower airways. Or we can even have a horse that has what we call recurrent airway obstruction or many horse people are familiar with the term of heaves. (Chris) OK. (Beth) And often those break down into a little bit of an age related problem. So, we more commonly see that inflammatory airway disease in the young performance horse that’s out and working, more commonly see recurrent airway obstruction or a horse that has heaves as maybe a mature to even a little bit older type horse. (Chris) Those are good points because I think in some horses that are out there and they’re showing them, they’re thinking maybe it’s heaves. It could be but the other thing would be based on those things and getting maybe some further diagnostics. And obviously consult with their veterinarian on a lot of those. What would be some potential, I guess kind of quickly, what would be some treatments or things that maybe the owner should be thinking about to help with those non-infectious type issues? (Beth) Sure, yep. Another really good point. Again, I agree with you. I think that when we’ve got that horse that has a persistent cough, and we’re trying to work through that, really good time for us to go ahead and have a veterinarian come out make sure there’s not anything underlying that’s infectious, because sometimes that does require things like antibiotics. But if we’re sure that they do have non-infectious, just airway inflammation and maybe it’s a young horse with IAD, often working with their veterinarian for things like anti-inflammatories. And those anti-inflammatories might include things like corticosteroid therapy and we often are going to do that in combination with, if there’s any sort of trigger in the environment. Because sometimes what happens is they maybe had flu or they had rhinopneumonitis, a little bit of a viral infection. They got over that, now they have some persistent inflammation and maybe they’re staying indoors because of weather conditions. Or maybe they live in a pen with a round bale and they’ve got some dust exposure and that makes things a little bit worse. So, often it’s gonna be maybe some medications that a veterinarian can prescribe along with some environmental changes. And that’s true with our older horse that has heaves as well. I think many of us are familiar with that situation by trying to minimize dust. Try to have really clean hay or even grass pasture as an ideal forage source. And then working with the veterinarian on the optimal medications that that horse should be receiving. (Chris) I think that’s all great points and I sure appreciate that Dr. Davis. And I think that the biggest point to even take home would be consult with your veterinarian if you have any issues with your horse coughing so you can kind of figure those things out. And again, if you have any other questions, just give us a call here at Kansas State Vet School and maybe Dr. Davis or one of the other specialists in internal medicine at the Veterinary Health Center can help you with that. I’m Dr. Chris Blevins with Horsin’ Around and we’ll see you around.

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