Inflammatory airway disease (IAD), also known as equine asthma, is a common problem in horses. It can affect the performance of horses participating across a range of activities, including racing, eventing, show jumping, and dressage. And yet, despite recent scientific advances, there’s still so much that researchers don’t know about IAD.

Cristy Secombe, BSc, BVMS, MVsc (hons), MANZCVS, Dipl. ACVIM, a senior lecturer in equine medicine at Murdoch University, in Western Australia, will be speaking on the topic at the Equine Veterinarians Australia Bain Fallon conference, taking place July 17-21 in Melbourne, Australia. Secombe considers further research about this respiratory disease necessary to effectively tackle IAD in Australia and around the world.

“IAD is commonly diagnosed in Australia and most scientists agree that there are a number of things that contribute to the development of IAD in athletic horses including dust, allergens, infectious agents, and a horse’s genetic susceptibility,” Secombe said. “The likelihood that a horse will develop the disease will depend on what level of exposure to causative agents they are able to tolerate and this varies from horse to horse.”

Diagnosing IAD can be challenging as the only clinical sign could be an intermittent cough or poor performance with minimal respiratory signs. Currently, the most common diagnostic method involves looking at the types of inflammatory cells present in the respiratory tract and the amount of mucus produced.

Treatment is centered on environmental management (with a focus on reducing exposure to dust and allergens) and anti-inf