Inhaling Fungi Increases Horses’ Risk of Inflammatory Airway Disease

Management strategies include inhaled corticosteroids and environmental changes such as steaming hay.

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Inhaling Fungi Increases Horses’ Risk of Inflammatory Airway Disease
Van Erck and her team found that horses had a higher likelihood of fungi in their airways if they were bedded on straw vs. shavings. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

We know the ubiquitous dust and pollen present in horses’ forage and bedding can trigger equine asthma and respiratory allergies. What about fungi, though—how prevalent is it in horses’ environments, and could it be contributing to inflammatory airway disease (IAD)?

Emmanuelle van Erck, DVM, PhD, Dipl. EBVS, ECEIM, and her team at Equine Sports Medicine Practice in Waterloo, Belgium, sought to find out. She described their study and findings at the 2019 Annual American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Denver.

Van Erck included in the study 731 European racehorses, Warmbloods, and leisure horses that had been referred to her clinic from 2013 to 2016 for signs of respiratory disease or poor performance. As her team does with all respiratory cases, noted clinical signs such as coughing and nasal discharge;  performed an airway endoscopy, tracheal wash, and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL); and evaluated each horse’s environment (bedding, forage, pasture access, etc.);

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Written by:

Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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