Coughing in Horses, Causes and Treatments

(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. What are some causes of horses to cough? (Beth) As horse owners we all know that horses will cough here and there and we probably can brush that off. Where we get concerned is where a horse continues to cough or isn’t quite themselves and has a cough to go along with it. So, is it a result of infectious disease versus non-infectious disease? With infectious diseases it might be a respiratory infection with a bacteria or a virus with a fever. Might need to have a veterinarian take a peek. (Chris) What are non-infectious causes of coughing? (Beth) Sometimes its exercise or if they are at rest or out in the pasture and they cough. When we talk about non-infectious respiratory disease, we think about inflammatory airway disease with inflammation of the lower airways. Or we can even have a horse that has what we call recurrent airway obstruction or heaves. Often its an age related problem. The inflammatory airway disease is more common in the young performance horse and recurrent airway obstruction or heaves in a mature horse. (Chris) It could be we’d need some further diagnostics, and to consult with a veterinarian. What are some treatments to help with non-infectious issues? (Beth) With the horse that has a persistent cough, its time to have a veterinarian make sure there’s not anything underlying that’s infectious, because it might require antibiotics. But if its non-infectious, working with a veterinarian for anti-inflammatories is good. Maybe they live in a pen with a round bale and they have some dust exposure. Some medications from a veterinarian can help along with environmental changes. Also try to have clean hay. (Chris) If you have other questions, give us a call here at Kansas State Vet School. I’m Dr. Chris Blevins with Horsin’ Around and we’ll see you around.

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