Asthma in South Australian horses probed

The abdominal muscles in a horse with heaves enlarge, forming a "heave line".
The abdominal muscles in a horse with heaves – or COPD – enlarge, forming a “heave line”.

A study on respiratory disorders in horses and their owners in South Australia is aiming to learn about the prevalence of such conditions and identify possible risk factors.

In the Northern Hemisphere it is estimated that 10-20% of horses suffer from allergic respiratory disease similar to asthma in humans – but it’s not known as a problem in Australia.

Associate Professor Samantha Franklin, Equine Physiologist with the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at the University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy campus, said there was very little reported information about non-infectious respiratory health of horses in Australia.

A survey had been created to enable the gathering of data from horse owners about respiratory conditions.

Franklin said horses may develop respiratory disease as a result of exposure to dust and micro-organisms associated with the feed and bedding, and people working with horses in the stable environment are also at increased risk of developing asthma for the same reasons.

Allergic respiratory disease in horses ranges in severity, Franklin said.

asthma“It varies from having a minor effect on exercise tolerance and performance through to quite severe respiratory distress. In some cases respiratory disease may be a hidden factor impairing horse performance that isn’t recognised, but could be treated.”

The study is being conducted by Franklin, along with Dr Lidwien Verdegaal (Equine Medicine) and Dr Charles Caraguel (Epidemiology).

The survey is being co-ordinated by students Farrah Preston (Animal Science) and Chelsea Smart (Veterinary Science) and has been supported by Bonnetts Saddleworld.

Respiratory disorders survey

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