Appropriate biosecurity program protocols for respiratory diseases on the farm was the first issue addressed at the table topic on respiratory diseases presented at the 2010 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore, Md. Attendees agreed that segregating new arrivals/horses returning from horse shows and monitoring isolated horses' temperatures are important measures for preventing entry of an infectious agent into a herd. A second component is isolation of sick animals. This should include moving the sick horse out of the barn and into a different barn to be isolated and implementing personal protective equipment (gloves, boots [rubber or slip-on], gowns, or coveralls). When instituting a foot dip with disinfectant, dilute bleach works well (1 part bleach, 4 parts water) and should be placed stall side along with a dispenser of hand-sanitizer solution. Education of everyone working on the farm about the importance of biosecurity and following the protocols is the key to successful infectious disease prevention.


The second discussion addressed heaves (or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), focusing primarily on the treatment and management of the disorder. Management of each case differs, but the most important factor is maintaining the horse in an appropriate environment (i.e., on pasture as much as possible or in an area with minimal exposure to particles and allergens). Additional treatments include systemic corticosteroids and inhalation therapy. Allergy testing might be beneficial in some cases to help identify what allergens the horse should avoid, but this should not take the place of environmental management.

Attendees also discussed pneumonia treatment, with a focus on the new antimicrobial agent ceftiofur (Excede). This antibiotic is a sustained-release (long acting) injectable antibiotic that only requires two doses for 10 days of treatment. It is specifically labeled for treatment of lower airway infections caused by Streptococcus zooepidemicus, which is one of the common lower airway infection-causing bacteria. One complication is swelling at the injection site, but this can be avoided by dividing the dose and administering it in two sites.

Also discussed was equine multinodular pulmonary fibrosis--a type of interstitial (infection of the tissue in the lung) pneumonia that has been associated with equine herpesvirus-5. The horse can present with fever, cough, nasal discharge, or respiratory distress. Often the horse is treated for bacterial pneumonia but does not appear to improve. Ultrasound and radiographs will reveal nodular lesions. Treatment includes antibiotics (for pneumonia) and anti-inflammatory agents such as banamine or corticosteroids. Veterinarians might also administer antiviral medications. The prognosis for most of these cases is poor.

This session was moderated by Bonnie Barr, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., and Nicola Pusterla, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine.

About the Author

Bonnie Barr, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM

Bonnie Bar, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, is a shareholder at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, in Lexington, Kentucky.

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