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Nasal Discharge

15 August 2011 No Comment

Nasal Discharge
Dr. Jennifer MacLeay is an author and lecturer who is currently based in Fort Collins, Colorado. Dr. MacLeay was born and grew up in Northern New Jersey. Her interest in horses began early and she participated in hunt seat equitation and eventing for many years. Dr. MacLeay has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of New Hampshire and received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the Ohio State University.
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Question
Hello Dr. MacLeay, I have a12 -year-old grade QH mare that I purchased in early February. I believe she probably developed a slight nasal discharge soon after I got her. She started out with a slight nasal discharge, developed very distressed respirations and the vet thought she probably had developed pneumonia. She was then put on Penicillin, and after no improvement, was put on two weeks of Gentimycin. She seemed better after that, but the respiratory distress, rapid, audible breathing, and a heave line are current symptoms.
I am familiar with strangles, and think this horse probably is more likely to have been exposed to influenza prior to purchase. I vaccinated the mare after I had her home, for influenza, tetanus, eastern and western, and Rhino, could the vaccinations of had a bearing on her illness?
At this point, I can’t really afford to pursue this much farther, and at this time, she has no temperature, looks healthy, but breathes like she’s dying and of course, can’t be ridden. I have tried Ventipulmin with limited results, Cough Free, she, doesn’t eat her grain with this, and an oral antihistamine – all without noticeable results. I guess I am about to throw in the towel, and just call her and dispose of her. Can you offer any suggestions?
Answer
Hi, This is an excellent question. First lets discuss why your horse may have nasal discharge and what the discharge looks like. Horses may have nasal discharge from a single nostril that is very putrid smelling when they have an abscessed tooth or a sinus infection. Horses may also have nasal discharge that may or may not smell bad when they have an infection involving their guttural pouch. The guttural pouch is a diverticulum in the small tube that connects your throat and your ears (why your ears pop when you yawn). In horses it is quite large. Horses may have a less significant and clearer discharge when they have problems with their arytenoids (roarer) or epiglottis in the back of their throat as well. Any of the above may cause the horse to make an abnormal noise when they breath. Horses can also have nasal discharge from mild respiratory infections (like colds in us) or from pneumonia. Horses with COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (aka Heaves) may or may not have nasal discharge, a cough (can be moist or dry) and a heave line (pronounced abdominal musculature associated with chronic difficulty in breathing) .
I cannot tell from your letter which of the above problems she has. Any may not respond to therapy depending on the dose of drugs you used, how you gave them and for how long you gave them. But, all are likely fixable or manageable. Your mare and you need to make another appointment with your veterinarian or at a referral veterinary center. There, they will likely perform a thorough respiratory examination, take some blood for a blood count and recommend an upper airway endoscopy (looking at the back of her throat with a long flexible camera), a tracheal wash (where they take a sample of the fluid in the trachea for culture), and perhaps x-rays.
From the data they collect they will be able to diagnose your mare’s problem and make recommendations. I wouldn’t recommend giving up and “disposing” of her until you have the opportunity to give your mare a fighting chance and have her problem her problem worked up thoroughly.

Best of luck,
Jennifer MacLeay, DVM, Ph.D.
Diplomate ACVIM

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