The Horse

DEC 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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TheHorse.com | The Horse December 2018 15 Most likely, it's not anything to be con- cerned about. But even with something as seemingly simple as a horse with a snotty nose, it's important to pay attention and know how problematic the discharge is, the possible causes behind it, and when to call your veterinarian. Nasal drainage can be due to something as basic as a dusty arena to a life-threatening emer- gency. Many other causes fall between the two extremes. The mucous membranes lining your horse's nasal passages are sensitive, just like yours. Anything, infectious or not, that aggravates them or causes inflamma- tion can lead to production of additional mucus or fluid and the telltale runny nose. In this article we'll look at six snotty scenarios and explore the possible causes. Some are fairly benign, while others require calling a veterinarian to resolve the issue and protect nearby horses. Still, some can be life-threatening. Describing the Discharge When faced with a snotty nose, it's im- portant for a horse owner or caregiver to make certain observations before calling the veterinarian. First, it's important to characterize the discharge based on: ■ Color; ■ Consistency (viscosity, watery vs. thick vs. foamy, etc.); ■ Amount; ■ Whether it is bilateral or unilateral; ■ Whether it has an odor and what type; and ■ Whether blood is present. Understanding common terms a vet- erinarian might use to describe discharge can help owners and caretakers commu- nicate more effectively, as well: ■ Serous: watery discharge ■ Mucoid: opaque white discharge ■ Purulent: thick yellowish-green dis- charge that often indicates infection. ■ Mucopurulent: a mix of mucoid and purulent nasal discharge ■ Viscous: sticky ■ Sanguineous: bloody ■ Epistaxis: a full-on nosebleed ■ Fetid: bad-smelling ■ Unilateral: discharge from one nostril ■ Bilateral: discharge from both nostrils "Most snotty noses are bilateral but, as you go down the decision tree, that's the first decision to be made because one- sided helps you locate it anatomically," says Melissa Mazan, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of internal medicine, equine respiratory system, and lung function at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, in North Grafton, Massachusetts. Additional observations to note and share with your veterinarian include: ■ The horse's overall demeanor; ■ Brightness/dullness of the eyes; ■ Exercise tolerance; ■ Whether the horse is eating and drink- ing normally; ■ Changes in fecal and urine output; ■ The horse's body temperature, espe- cially if he has a fever; and ■ Any signs of colic, or abdominal discomfort. Mazan says adult horses with resting heart rates in the 50s or above need im- mediate veterinary attention. The normal resting heart rate for an adult horse is 28-44 beats per minute. Causes of Nasal Discharge The most common causes of snotty noses are noninfectious, says Mazan. Let's take a closer look at our six scenarios. Scenario 1: The horse has a watery or white nasal discharge and shows no other clinical signs. Horses with a bilateral watery or mucoid discharge could be reacting to environmental irritants (such as dust) or suffering from equine asthma or allergies. "Certainly horses that are stuck inside barns are more susceptible to inflamma- tion that will result in nasal discharge," says Mazan. "Horses that are in high pollen areas in the spring are more likely to get a nasal discharge, so it's something environmental." Mazan says horses with asthma still seem fairly healthy unless they are severely affected, despite the presence of discharge. "They usually still have a bright eye, they want to eat," she says. "They're pretty happy to go out for a ride. They don't look sick." Kara Lascola, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM- LA, CVA, associate professor of equine internal medicine at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine, in Ala- bama, says in this scenario veterinarians might tell owners just to keep an eye on the horse if he otherwise appears healthy. They should also recommend the owner monitor the horse for a fever or other signs of illness for a few days. Scenario 2: The horse has a lot of thick, yellow discharge coming out of both nostrils and seems less active than normal. Horses with thick, yellow bilateral discharge and other signs of illness might be suffering from a viral or bacterial infection. Viruses A viral infection often starts with a serous discharge that quickly changes to a thicker yellow or yellow- green. "If it's a horse that is showing any other signs of respiratory disease, such as coughing, breathing harder (more labored), is off its feed, has a fever, or there's an odd color or an irregular color I t starts with a drip: a bit of clear nasal discharge apparent as you wipe one of your horse's nostrils while tacking up. It's chilly out and, quite honestly, your own nose is running a bit, so you think it's probably nothing. (Horses with asthma) usually still have a bright eye, they want to eat. They're pretty happy to go out for a ride. They don't look sick." DR. MELISSA MAZAN

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