EQUUS - - Tack & Gear -

lin­ing be­tween the lungs and the chest wall.

• pneu­mo­nia— in­flam­ma­tion of the lungs, es­pe­cially the tis­sues as con­trasted to the air pas­sages (bron­chi­tis).

• re­cur­rent air­way ob­struc­tion (RAO, “heaves”)—res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease, usu­ally of ma­ture horses, in­duced by ex­po­sure to dusts typ­i­cally found in sta­bles. The dis­ease is re­cur­rent, depend­ing on en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­po­sure.

• rhinop­neu­moni­tis— highly con­ta­gious dis­ease caused by her­pesviruses (EHV-1, EHV-4); char­ac­ter­ized by fever, mild res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion and, in mares, abor­tion. In rare cases, some strains of th­ese her­pesviruses also cause po­ten­tially fa­tal neu­ro­log­i­cal com­pli­ca­tions.

• stran­gles (dis­tem­per)—highly con­ta­gious in­fec­tion of the lymph nodes, usu­ally of the head, caused by Strep­to­coc­cus equi bac­te­ria. The ab­scesses may be­come so large as to ob­struct the air­way (hence the term “stran­gles”) and may break in­ter­nally, drain­ing a thick, yel­low pus through the nose, or ex­ter­nally, drain­ing through a spon­ta­neous or sur­gi­cal open­ing in the skin.


A cough that de­vel­ops a few hours af­ter a horse has stepped off of a trailer is worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing promptly. One pos­si­bil­ity, if the horse has been at a show or other event where he would have been ex­posed to oth­ers, is that he con­tracted a vi­ral res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease, such as equine in­fluenza or rhinop­neu­moni­tis. “You of­ten see mul­ti­ple horses in a barn be­ing af­fected, if it’s vi­ral, or the horse has re­cently trav­eled and come home from some­where, where he might have picked up a vi­ral res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion,” says John­son.

Ship­ping fever, a se­ri­ous and po­ten­tially deadly form of bac­te­rial pneu­mo­nia, is an­other pos­si­bil­ity. The risk for this in­fec­tion rises if a horse spends hours rid­ing in a trailer tied so


When a horse starts to cough as he just stands around in a non­dusty en­vi­ron­ment, you’ll want to in­ves­ti­gate, es­pe­cially if this new be­hav­ior ap­pears sud­denly. “If a horse in your herd has never coughed be­fore and now has a cough, he should be ex­am­ined by your vet­eri­nar­ian. There are some prob­lems that might be unique to that one an­i­mal that could be caus­ing the un­ex­pected cough,” Buech­ner-Maxwell says. “Horses can de­velop things like gut­tural pouch my­co­sis, which would be a prob­lem with just that horse, and that he can­not drop his head to clear his air­ways. “Ship­ping fever can be a com­bi­na­tion of as­pi­ra­tion---breath­ing in par­ti­cles of hay, for in­stance, while in a trailer---and not be­ing able to get the head down to cough and clear out all of the for­eign bod­ies and bac­te­ria that have been in­haled, along with the stress of ship­ping,” says John­son. “This can all con­trib­ute to ship­ping fever.”

What­ever the cause, you’ll want to call the vet­eri­nar­ian as soon as pos­si­ble. If it’s a con­ta­gious dis­ease, you will need to take mea­sures quickly to pre­vent the dis­ease from spread­ing through­out the herd, and if it’s ship­ping fever, your horse’s odds of sur­vival are best if treat­ment is started within 48 hours. wouldn’t go through the herd.”

Other un­usual is­sues that can cause cough­ing in­clude tu­mors that press against the air­ways or in­juries, such as from a kick to the ribs, that cause in­flam­ma­tion in the lung.

“If a horse has de­vel­oped a high dry, in­fre­quent cough, and this is the first time you’ve heard it, you might watch it closely for a day or two---and if it per­sists you need to have your vet come take a look. It may be a for­eign body in the air­way, such as a piece of hay or straw,” says Buech­ner-Maxwell.

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