Vet : Hi there, vet Andrew here. I'm sorry no-one's got to your question sooner, but I have only just come online. Of course, we can't say for sure what is happening here as we have no diagnosis yet, but based on general principles you could have a point. A horse will cough if the airways are irritated or there is mucus or other foreign matter there. Patients with chronic mucus in their lungs can benefit from physiotherapy which involves moving the limbs about to expand the ribcage in more ways than are found in normal, relaxed breathing. The physiotherapist may also tap the chest area with a cupped hand to help loosen any mucus and debris.
Vet : Sweating in horse is not just found after exercise - it can be a sign of pain, anxiety or a fever. The physiotherapist may have managed to dislodge or loosen some stubborn infected mucus or even pus in the airways then this could have been detected by the local lymph nodes. The nodes would enlarge and produce chemicals called cytokines which set in motion an immune response, including a transient fever. You will have experienced this process as the 'shivery, cold, headachey' phase of a viral infection such as flu.
Vet : I must admit I have not seen a reaction like this following physiotherapy, but the suggestion above is certainly possible. As long as she is under veterinary supervision and the drugs you mention I see no immediate danger to her health, but your friend should mention it to the vet at their next visit. I hope you find this answer helpful, and if you have any questions please don't hesitate post them here.
Thank you for that. I would add that the whole time she has had this cough, she has never coughed up anything or had any discharge from her nose. At first the vet suggested that she maybe had COPD but I find that hard to believe as she has been competing regularly all the time and never once showed any signs of tiring even after doing a cross country. I should say that her breathing rate at rest is extremely fast though - upwards of 30 per minute. However, she is extremely fit and when hacking we have a canter track of approximately 1 mile, all uphill, and she can cope with that and not be tiring at the top. She is being sent to specialists next week so hopefully we can get some answers then. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated though.
Vet : Ok, if you'd like a list, here's what goes through my mind on the way to see a coughing horse:
Vet : 1. COPD
Vet : 2. Infectious disease, e.g. Flu or strangles
Vet : 3. Allergic bronchitis 'hay fever'
Vet : 4. Cardiovascular disease
Vet : 5. Inflammatory airway disease
Vet : 6. Tumour
Vet : 7. Pharyngeal problem such as roaring or trapped epiglottis
Vet : The order of likelihood will depend on the horse's age and history.
Vet : I suspect the specialist will run baseline bloods to assess general health, then after a full examination may decide to pass a scope and take a fluid sample of the airways.
Hi, thank you. The vet said her heart sounded fine so think we can rule our number 4. She isn't making a noise so think we can rule our number 7. She has been like this for almost a year now and seems well in herself so think we can rule our number 2. This leaves us with COPD, Hay Fever, Inflammatory airway disease or a tumour. She has had bloods taken but we haven't heard the results yet. It will be interesting to find out what it is but thank you for your thoughts
Vet : Your assessment sounds about right. The scope and tracheal or bronchial wash should help differentiate which it is. However, the steroids he's on might mask some or all of these possibilities. I wish you both all the best. Regards, ***** *****
She has to be 5 days off the steroids before she goes to the specialist so they have been reducing over the last week. Thank you for your assistance.
Vet : Aha, that's good. Please let me know how you get on, as these cases are always interesting.