Owner perceptions about heaves are pretty accurate

A study suggests that your observations about your horse's health can be right on the money.

Research from the University of Berne in Switzerland and Tufts University suggests that you are probably a pretty good judge of your horse’s respiratory health.

Noting that veterinarians must often rely on the owner’s description of a horse’s signs when assessing respiratory disease, the researchers set out to see how well those observations matched sophisticated examination findings and diagnostic tests.

A woman looking at her horse and smiling
Observant horse owners are usually good judges of their horse’s respiratory health, according to research.

For the study, they selected 28 healthy horses and 34 who had a history of recurrent airway disease, a narrowing of the small passages of the lungs commonly referred to as “heaves.” The horses were assigned to groups based solely on owner reports of coughing frequency and nasal discharge. They underwent endoscopic0 examinations, and their respiratory function was quantified based on analysis of blood-levels, tracheal secretions and airway responsiveness, which is the tendency of the airway passages to spasm in response to certain chemicals.

Click here to learn the facts about heaves in horses.

The data showed that horses who were reported to cough frequently by their owners were significantly more likely to have diagnostic findings of airway disease, particularly airway responsiveness. However, the researchers note that horses who do not seem to cough frequently or have nasal discharge may still have airway inflammation.

Reference: Owner-reported coughing and nasal discharge are associated with clinical findings, arterial oxygen tension, mucus score and bronchoprovocation in horses with recurrent airway obstruction in a field setting,” Equine Veterinary Journal, April 2014

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