Digital Recorders Can Monitor Equine Cough

Someday people may use a digital audio recorder to evaluate equine respiratory diseases, as well as the air quality of the stable environment.

Marco Duz, MedVet, MRCVS, and his colleagues recorded horses' coughs over 24 hours, then analyzed the coughs by reviewing the digital recording on a computer, which took about 2-3 minutes for every hour of recording time.

"We attached the digital audio recorder to the head collar with the microphone pointing toward the mouth," said Duz of the Weipers Center for Equine Welfare at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Cough is a good indicator that something is wrong with the horse. "Studies have shown that the more frequently horses cough, the more severe disease of the lower airways is," said Duz. "Therefore, monitoring cough frequency can provide valuable information about the severity of disease."

The monitor may also help owners evaluate the stable environment. "This monitor would allow anyone to understand how much a horse is really coughing throughout the 24 hours,” Duz said. "For example, if a horse has heaves, an owner may evaluate objectively if he is coughing more when fed some feeds rather than others, in different areas of the barn, in certain times of the day, etc. This could guide owners to manage their horse better."

However, the monitor only shows how much the horse is coughing, not why the horse is coughing. "More traditional and invasive diagnostic modalities would be indicated to determine the cause of the cough," Duz said.

Although only available for research at the moment, the monitor has potential for everyday use. "The hope is that these devices will be used widely in equine practice as part of standard monitoring of horses with respiratory disease because they are reliable, cheap, and non-invasive," Duz said.

The study, "Validation of a digital audio recording method for the objective assessment of cough in the horse," was published online ahead of print in Research in Veterinary Science.

The abstract is available on Pubmed.

About the Author

Marie Rosenthal, MS

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