‘Equine Asthma’ Now an Official Diagnosis

Inflammatory airway disease and recurrent airway obstruction fall under the “equine asthma syndrome” umbrella.
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For the first time since 2007, a group of equine internal medicine experts collaborated and updated the consensus statement on inflammatory airway disease to help facilitate the industry’s understanding of this common, performance-limiting, and potentially debilitating respiratory condition in horses.

“Recurrent airway obstruction, or heaves, seen in older horses and inflammatory airway disease noted in younger horses both resemble asthma in humans,” explained Laurent Couëtil, DVM, PhD, section head of Large Animal Internal Medicine at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and lead author of the 2016 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Inflammatory Airway Disease Consensus Statement. “Specifically, they are characterized by airway inflammation and accumulation of mucus in the airways.”

Recognizing the similarities between inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) in horses (and humans, for that matter) and asthma, one of the important updates in the consensus statement was the recommendation to adopt the term “equine asthma syndrome” for all horses with IAD or RAO.

“It is important to recognize that even though IAD and RAO are both in the spectrum of chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, they are not a continuum,” Couëtil said. “This means that not all horses with IAD will necessarily develop RAO, but they are at risk. Instead, RAO requires time to develop with permanent remodeling of the airways, whereas horses with IAD can recover

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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