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." is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into

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Written by:

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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