Please can you help me on some advice

I went on your site and read what was said about the flu in horses. Every year for the past 3 years now my horses have been getting sick around this time of year. There haven't been any new horses coming onto the ranch. At first ...I went on your site and read what was said about the flu in horses. Every year for the past 3 years now my horses have been getting sick around this time of year. There haven't been any new horses coming onto the ranch. At first ...

Story originally posted by: Michael Lowder, DVM, MS

Dr. Lowder:

I went on your site and read what was said about the flu in horses. Every year for the past 3 years now my horses have been getting sick around this time of year. There haven’t been any new horses coming onto the ranch. At first I thought it was a cold and treated them as such. My vet came out several times and tried to find out just what it was.

He checked their lungs and said they were all clear and had no problem there at all. The only thing that worked on them in years past was naxcel. Now only two of them out of 6 have a slight cough, a very small amount of nasal discharge and most of all they are congested in the sinus area. When they breath you can hear them, just like in people that have nasal congestion. They all eat and drink everything (no problem there) and run and play in the pasture.

None of them have a temp and they seem fine except for the sinus congestion. This has been going on for at least a month now and my vet said it has to run it course since he thinks its a virus. I am very concerned and wanted to know if there was anything I could be doing to get them through this faster. I haven’t ridden them for at least 3 weeks now because I didn’t want to make things worse.

Is their any advice you can give me to get them over this nasal congestion?

I have six horses ranging from the ages 21/2 years to 5 years old, all mares. They are up to date on all their shots and I give them their flu and rhino shots every 3 months since they started this problem a few years ago. Can it be that one of the mares carries this flu and breaks down with it each year? Should I just wait it out and let it run it’s course or be doing something about it?

Also would it hurt them if I ride them? I know when they start coming down with it because they will drop their heads all the way to the ground while on the lunge line and seem to be having a hard time breathing, and you can hear the congestion in their noses when they breath.

This problem seems to take forever before they are over it.

Thanks again for hearing me out on this matter.
Diana
Winged Spur Ranch

Dear Diana,

Although your veterinarian has done a physical exam on your horses, it would be best to have the vet do a rebreathing exam if not done already. This will help to determine if the problem is in the lower or upper respiratory tract. In your horses case, the coughing could be unrelated to the congestion you hear or they could be caused by the same problem.

It is important to rule out disease in the lungs as it carries a different treatment and prognosis. In order to rule out any bacterial, fungal, or viral diseases, it may be a good idea to do some diagnostic testing. A culture of the nasal discharge may help to identify a bacterial or fungal agent that can cause the signs you describe. A transtracheal wash where they sample some of the material from deeper in the respiratory tract may be useful in identifying any viral agents such as influenza virus and herpes virus both of which can cause respiratory signs in the horse.

Viral isolation can be done on the material obtained from the wash. There are also other functional and anatomical problems that can cause nasal discharge and coughing, but with the history of all horses being affected and reoccurrence every winter makes this unlikely.

With the history, it makes your problem sound more like a management problem. Are your horses stalled every winter and covered with blankets to protect them from the cold temperatures? Do you feed them on the ground or up off the ground? Are they mainly pasture horses? Is their hay moldy or dusty in the winter months? All of these factors could predispose them to having these signs. Your vet should come out and evaluate the horses as described and evaluate your management practice to hopefully give you some tips to help prevent these signs.

Thank you,
Dr. Lowder