Ask The Vet: Summer Care for Your Horse

Answered by Rebecca Stinson, DVM, Reidsville, NC Courtesy of AAEP

Question: I am wondering what could be causing my horse to cough. Mister is 20-years-old and has had a cough since about the middle of last week.

He will cough 2-3 times like he’s trying to clear his throat maybe a couple of times an hour. He also seems to create a lot of saliva in his mouth. He’s healthy and eats good. He just keeps coughing.

Answer: This is a really important question and I want to get the answer to you right away! There are certainly a multitude of causes for a cough in a 20 year old to cough. My concern is that his is occurring frequently and is new and unusual for your horse.

Common causes of cough may include inflammatory or infectious causes. At times we may see a cough develop due to infectious agents such as Strangles which is caused by a bacterium or Influenza which is caused by a virus. You describe that he is eating well so that makes me hopeful that he is not running a fever or suffering other ill effects often seen with an infection.

Inflammatory disease like Recurrent Airway Obstruction or Inflammatory Airway Disease can also lead to a cough. These are seen commonly as a reaction to things in the environment such as pasture grass pollen, dust, or other factors. When associated with summer time occurrence, we usually see it associated with pollen. This condition often will worsen with time and repeated exposure.

In either inflammatory or infectious airway disease, we can see a reduction in the horse’s ability to cool itself in the summer heat. This can lead to heat stress and rarely, heat exhaustion.

Please consider scheduling an appointment with your regular veterinarian at your earliest convenience to help your horse get the appropriate medication to help him breathe easy!

Question: Besides your local vet, are their reputable on-line companies for fecal testing to help establish your deworming protocol? If so, which companies are the best and most reliable?

Answer: I am so glad to hear that you are planning for fecal egg counts on your horses. As you already know, fecal egg counts allow us to detect the horses that are shedding eggs into the environment. At times, these horses may need to be dewormed more frequently than their herd-mates to reduce the parasite burden placed on the pasture.

I am not currently aware of an online laboratory for fecal egg counts. I would suggest talking with your regular veterinarian to see how often they recommend doing the testing for your herd. This can vary based on location, herd size and parasite history on the farm. They may also discuss options for testing with you.