Inflammatory Airway Disease In Horses Caused By Fungi

Inhaling different contaminants like fungi and dust can make it difficult for horses to breath; continued inhalation of molds or dust can even lead a horse to develop what has been dubbed “equine asthma,” a catchall phrase for multiple breathing disorders. Recently, researchers discovered that breathing in certain types of mold can lead to the development of inflammatory airway disease (IAD), reports The Horse.

Dr. Emmanuelle van Erck-Westergren of Equine Sports Medicine Practice, in Waterloo, Belgium, evaluated 731 sport horses referred to the clinic for breathing difficulties. An airway endoscopy, a tracheal wash and a brochoalveolar lavage were performed on each horse and the equine caretakers were asked about the management of each animal, including food and bedding.

IAD was the diagnosis in 88 percent of the horses referred to the clinic; 81 percent of the affected horses had fungal elements in the tracheal wash. The scientists also determined that the horses that had fungus in the wash were more than twice as likely to have IAD than the other horses.

Van Erck-Westergren notes that more research is needed to determine why horses react to fungus; it is unclear if the fungus triggers IAD or if horses that have IAD have a weakened immune system and are more reactive than other horses. Inhaling fungus causes IAD, but the amount of reactive inflammation in each horse will vary depending on how sensitive he is, Van Erck-Westergren says.

The type of management a horse receives plays a role in how much exposure the equine has to mold. Horses kept in stalls will have more exposure to molds than those that live outside. Horses bedded on straw and hay were the most likely to have IAD as these beddings were harvested from materials that grew in soil and had fungus on them; wood shavings used as bedding reduced the exposure to fungi and the occurrence of IAD, the scientists said. Additionally, steaming hay can help reduce the risk of a horse developing IAD.

Read more at The Horse.

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