All About Respiratory Infections In Horses

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All About Respiratory Infections in Horses

Photo – © Monkey Business –

A horse is only as healthy as his lungs. With an athletic and diligent lifestyle, any horse commands a respiratory powerhouse that can deliver enough oxygen from the inhaled air to its powerful muscles. These muscles use oxygen to burn fuel from the horse’s food (carbohydrates and fats) and hence to produce energy. But when a respiratory disease ensues, an oxygen deficit can be a concern.

The presence of nasal discharges and a dry or moist cough renders breathing at a respiratory rate sufficient to meet the body’s demand of oxygen more difficult. Inflammation and narrowing of the airways that usually accompany the infection also compound the difficulty in breathing. The infection, either acute or chronic, limits the performance and activities of the horse and can cause exercise intolerance, loss of appetite, and depression.

All kinds of horses are at risk – whether it’s a sporting horse that frequently attends events or a docile pasture equine – although housing and activity are risk factors. Bacteria or viruses can strike at any time of the year too. What’s more, not all horses will manifest symptoms until the infection is already established. Note as well that some infections, such as the notorious equine influenza, are highly contagious and can affect both the upper and the lower respiratory tracts of horses. The spread of the illness within the same barn is also very possible.

Treatment of respiratory infections generally revolves around the effective use of medications, particularly antibiotics, bronchodilators, and corticosteroids. Diet, rest, and supportive care also improve the horse’s condition and contribute to its return to a normal life.

For a comprehensive read on the primary causes of respiratory tract infection, treatment and monitoring of infected horses, medications, diet, etc., check out this article from EquiSearch:

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