MED­I­CAL FRONT

EQUUS - - Contents -

Which scents help horses re­lax? An­timi­cro­bials can aid

heaves ther­apy Views about back pain

treat­ment change Eye prob­lems are elu­sive The dan­gers of wire in­ges­tion The case for “pro­gres­sive” wean­ing Per­son­al­ity mat­ters for

po­lice horses New way to gauge the sever­ity

of joint in­juries Painkillers may af­fect colic

com­pli­ca­tions

Some horses with heaves may ben­e­fit from an­timi­cro­bial med­i­ca­tions in ad­di­tion to con­ven­tional treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to a new Cana­dian study.

Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan ex­am­ined 11 horses with a his­tory of se­vere equine asthma, a nar­row­ing of the small air­ways of the lungs com­monly re­ferred to as heaves. Along with the clas­sic clin­i­cal signs of the con­di­tion---in­clud­ing la­bored breath­ing and flar­ing nos­trils---the horses were found to have bac­te­ria in their air­ways and el­e­vated lev­els of white blood cells in their lungs, which is a sign of in­flam­ma­tion.

The cor­re­la­tion be­tween heaves and air­way bac­te­ria isn’t well un­der­stood but may be sig­nif­i­cant, says Ju­lia Mont­gomery, Med Vet, PhD, DACVIM (LAIM). “With ev­ery­thing we are learn­ing about the mi­cro­biome, in­clud­ing new di­ag­nos­tic non-cul­ture­based method­olo­gies to de­tect bac­te­ria, we are mov­ing away from the old as­sump­tion that the lower air­way is ‘ster­ile,’” she says. “It is now gen­er­ally ac­cepted that all air­ways, in­clud­ing healthy ones, har­bor some bac­te­ria. In peo­ple, the pres­ence of cer­tain types of bac­te­ria is as­so­ci­ated with

asthma ex­ac­er­ba­tions and other chronic lower air­way diseases. Since se­vere equine asthma is char­ac­ter­ized by neu­trophilic in­flam­ma­tion, and neu­trophils tend to be re­cruited in bac­te­rial in­fec­tions, we were in­ter­ested to study if a sim­i­lar re­la­tion­ship ex­ists in horses.”

All of the study horses re­ceived con­ven­tional heaves care: Mea­sures were taken to re­duce dust and other air­borne ir­ri­tants in their en­vi­ron­ment, and they were given cor­ti­cos­teroids to com­bat in­flam­ma­tion and bron­chodila­tors to open their air­way pas­sages.

Six of the horses were also given two doses of lon­gact­ing cef­tio­fur, a broad­spec­trum an­tibi­otic com­monly used to treat equine air­way in­fec­tions. The re­main­ing five horses were given saline placebo treat­ment. At the end of the 16-day study pe­riod, the horses were once again ex­am­ined for clin­i­cal signs of heaves and tested for air­way in­flam­ma­tion and bac­te­ria.

The data showed that the horses treated with the an­timi­cro­bial showed a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in clin­i­cal signs of asthma by the end of the study, along with a de­crease in cer­tain neu­trophil ac­tiv­ity in their lungs. Other mea­sures of air­way in­flam­ma­tion re­mained un­changed be­tween the treated and placebo groups.

While th­ese re­sults are en­cour­ag­ing, Mont­gomery is quick to point out an­timi­cro­bial med­i­ca­tions are ap­pro­pri­ate only for cer­tain heaves cases.

“This study only looked at horses who also had a pos­i­tive tra­cheal wash bac­te­rial cul­ture, so based on our re­sults the de­ci­sion will still have to be made for any in­di­vid­ual horse based on the di­ag­nos­tic test re­sults and at the dis­cre­tion of the treat­ing vet­eri­nar­ian,” she says. “There may be a sub­group of horses that may ben­e­fit from the ad­di­tion of an­tibi­otics be­cause they have a bac­te­rial com­po­nent to their air­way prob­lem, but this should not be gen­er­ally ap­plied to ev­ery horse with asthma. On the con­trary, the use of an­timi­cro­bials should be clearly in­di­cated be­fore adding them to the horse’s treat­ment plan.”

Ref­er­ence: “Does an­timi­cro­bial ther­apy im­prove out­comes in horses with se­vere equine asthma and a pos­i­tive tra­cheal wash bac­te­rial cul­ture?” The Cana­dian Jour­nal of Vet­eri­nary Re­search, July 2018

Hands-on ex­am­i­na­tion that in­cludes putting pres­sure di­rectly on the horse’s back con­tin­ues to be the most com­mon di­ag­nos­tic tech­nique.

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