Respiratory diseases are extremely common illnesses, probably second only to lameness.

 

They can be viral, bacterial, immune mediated (allergies) or mechanical in nature. Some are highly contagious, while others are limited to the affected individual horse. While some diseases can affect the entire respiratory system, most are categorized as either upper airway or lower airway conditions. Disorders of the upper airways are generally mechanical in nature, while those of the lower airway are often the result of infection. Respiratory diseases are extremely common illnesses, probably second only to lameness. They can be viral, bacterial, immune mediated (allergies) or mechanical in nature. Some are highly contagious, while others are limited to the affected individual horse. While some diseases can affect the entire respiratory system, most are categorized as either upper airway or lower airway conditions. Disorders of the upper airways are generally mechanical in nature, while those of the lower airway are often the result of infection. 

Equine Influenza (flu)

Equine influenza (flu) is one of most common viral respiratory disease in horses. It affects the upper and lower respiratory tract of horses and is highly infectious, with an incubation period of 1 to 3 days. After contracting the virus, horses can remain contagious for up to 10 days. Clinical signs are similar to other respiratory infections, making it difficult to distinguish equine influenza from other diseases without laboratory tests. 

Heaves

The respiratory illness commonly known as “heaves” or “broken wind” was until recently termed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It has recently been renamed as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), to indicate that it is not the same condition as COPD in humans. Also equine asthma syndrome. 

RAO is a disease that can be triggered by exposure to mouldy or dusty feeds, confinement to a stable environment; inadequate ventilation, dust, or in some cases, pollen. The precise cause of the disease is not known, but research suggests that the characteristic inflammation of the small airways results from an allergic response to dust, mould or other trigger factors.

Things to look out for:

● Cough

● Increased respiratory rate at rest

● Increased respiratory effort at rest

● Temperatures above 38.5

● Abnormal breathing during exercise

● Slow recovery from exercise

● Poor performance

● Frequent swallowing during exercise or blood in the nostrils

 If your horse develops a cough that lasts more than a few days or any of the above symptoms always consult your veterinary practice for professional advice.

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Veterinary advice in this magazine is provided as a general guide and you should always seek professional advice

Swanspool Equine & Farm Vets