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Achoo! Horses Have Asthma Too!

Posted: 6:01 PM, May 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-15 18:01:18-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky Derby saw a last minute drop out for Omaha Beach due to an upper airway abnormality. Country House isn’t making it to Preakness Stakes due to an illness that required a tracheal wash.

A vet from Rood & Riddle Equine explains that horses suffer from asthma, just like humans.

“Most owners would know it as COPD and heaves. COPD actually represents severe asthma, but horses may have mild asthma,” said Dr. Bill Gilsenan from Rood & Riddle.

The mild asthma is often contracted due to dust.

“As we are in racing season and horses are traveling a lot and also intermingling with a lot of other horses, just like people who go on vacation or go into areas that they typically haven’t been before, they’re going to be susceptible to picking up little viruses especially if they’re stressed from the simple stress of traveling just like you going in an airplane,” said Gilsenan.

It wasn’t until the past 4-5 years that asthma was the name associated with horses’ respiratory issues.

“We used to call inflammatory aroid disease that we now call mild equine asthma will be completely normal at rest and they only have a cough when they’re exercising. Horses that have severe equine asthma, which horse owners would probably know as heaves, would have an increased respiratory effort at rest, also an increased respiratory rate and that can be so severe that even in the worst cases, sometimes horses need to be put down,” he said.

To avoid the extreme, Gilsenan said it is best to take preventative steps and visit a vet.

“As our understanding for equine asthma has evolved, you really — you can create a corollary for what you see in people. Again, the thing that I would remember is that in a horse, just like in people, a cough is never normal and if a horse is coughing, when they’re exercising or at rest, that’s not normal,” said Gilsenan.