Managing Inflammatory Airway Disease in Horses (AAEP 2011)

Inflammatory airway disease is a top cause of decreased performance and affects up to 50% of equine athletes.
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Of the many ailments that can limit an athletic horse’s performance, lower airway inflammation is a top cause, affecting as many as 50% of young equine athletes. The good news about inflammatory airway disease (IAD) is the condition is treatable, and most affected horses can make a full recovery. During a presentation at the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas, Harold McKenzie III, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, an assistant professor at the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va., described in-depth how to manage IAD in performance horses.

Inflammatory airway disease most commonly affects young to middle-aged horses, although the exact prevalence remains unclear, McKenzie explained. Horses with the disease display a number of clinical signs, including:

  • Mild exercise intolerance;
  • Intermittent cough;
  • Nasal discharge;
  • Abnormalities on lung auscultation (listening with a stethoscope); and
  • Tracheobronchial mucus accumulation.

McKenzie relayed that IAD has many and varied causes, and there are likely allergic, environmental, bacterial, and viral components to disease development: "Young performance horses are exposed to lots and lots of things that can initiate and prolong irritation in the respiratory tract."

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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