equine asthma treatments

Managing horses with allergy-induced lung disease effectively is a two-pronged approach. Veterinarians often prescribe corticosteroids and/or bronchodilators to control acute and chronic clinical signs of disease, along with recommending environmental changes to limit horses’ exposure to inhaled allergens.

But, as with most horse health care tasks, implementing the appropriate adjustments—such as avoiding dusty arenas, soaking hay, wetting bedding, and changing to a pelleted diet—can be time-consuming and expensive. And after all that work, do owners really think their horses’ conditions have improved?

Researchers recently sought to find out and were surprised by some of their findings.

“We thought that owners would be much more willing to use medication than to do the hard work of changing the environment,” said Mathilde Leclere, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, an associate professor in equine internal medicine at the Université de Montréal, in Canada. However, “it was not the case.”

Leclere’s research team asked 33 owners of pleasure and sport horses diagnosed with equine asthma which veterinarian-recommended environmental modifications they implemented and how they perceived their horses’ response to treatment.

All responding owners said they’d attempted to decrease their horses’ exposure to dust, while about half reported they’d also administered vet-prescribed medication.

“The majority, close to 75%, of owners perceived improvement when limiting exposure to hay and barn dust, alone or with medications,” Leclere said.

She cautioned that the surveyed owners’ actions might not represent all owners’ feelings about equine asthma treatments.

And, “the retrospective nature of the study also makes it difficult to recommend one management practice over another since many owners combined different approaches that were the most convenient for their horses,” she added.

Still, Leclere said she hopes this study will provide the groundwork on which to build prospective, placebo-controls studies in sport horses with mild and moderate equine asthma.

The study, “Adherence to treatment recommendations and short-term outcome of pleasure and sport horses with equine asthma,” was published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal.