Pleurisy Average Cost

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What is Pleurisy?

Pleurisy, sometimes called pleuritis, is the painful condition that results from inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the chest wall and covers the lungs. The pleural membrane allows for the lungs to smoothly inflate and deflate within the chest cavity. When the pleural membrane is altered or injured, movement within the thoracic cavity is no longer a smooth process. Friction develops, causing significant pain during breathing and movement. The horse may struggle to breathe. 

Pleurisy rarely develops in isolation; it is usually secondary to a systemic infection. In most cases, pleurisy results from an infection such as pneumonia, abscesses, or influenza. As the horse’s condition worsens, horse owners may notice increased work of breathing, decreased appetite, groaning and grunting while moving, reluctance to move, depression, coughing, and evidence of pain in the chest and abdomen. Upon listening with a stethoscope, the veterinarian  will notice that breathing is becoming more shallow and air movement is impaired. 

Typically, a thoracic ultrasound will be performed in order to visualize the chest organs, evaluate fluid accumulation, look for adhesions, and determine the extent of disease.  A treatment plan will be assembled by the veterinarian in order to halt further damage to the lungs and restore optimal breathing.

Pleurisy is a painful inflammation of the pleural membrane that lines the chest wall and covers the lungs. When properties of the membrane change due to inflammation, friction develops between the lungs and the chest wall causing significant pain.

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Symptoms of Pleurisy in Horses

  • Characteristic dry grunting sound when breathing
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Bad breath
  • Nostril flaring and discharge
  • Difficult to saddle
  • Rigid and sensitive abdomen
  • Abnormal position of legs while standing
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Stiff gait
  • Possible swelling under the chest and lower limbs

Causes of Pleurisy in Horses

  • Infectious illness like pneumonia
  • Influenza
  • Abscesses
  • Strangles
  • Chest wall injury
  • Inflammatory conditions

Diagnosis of Pleurisy in Horses

The horse will typically present with symptoms of respiratory distress, lethargy, depression, and evidence of pain.  Using the stethoscope, the veterinarian will notice shallow breath sounds and decreased lung fields.  Blood work such as CBC may be performed to look for infection; however, thoracic ultrasound is the most effective method in diagnosing the condition and guiding treatment.  If the horse is retaining significant fluid, the ultrasound can enable safe needle aspiration while protecting the lungs and heart. Aspirated fluid may provide the most accurate information to guide treatment.

Treatment of Pleurisy in Horses

Treatment of pleurisy is usually accomplished by the administration of long-term antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian based on culture reports. The quality of pleural fluid will determine whether more drainage is indicated. Medical therapy includes broad-spectrum antibiotics, NSAID’s, analgesics, and supportive care. Oxygen administered with a face mask may be helpful. 

The prognosis for horses with pleuropneumonia has greatly improved due to early recognition, advancements in diagnostic testing, and aggressive therapy. The survival rate is reported to be as high as 90% with a 60% chance to return to athletic performance. Some horses, particularly those with compromised immunity, may respond poorly to typical therapy and have a low survival rate. 

Good nutrition and stall rest in a well-ventilated setting until the horse has fully recuperated will allow a return to normal routines upon recovery.

Recovery of Pleurisy in Horses

Although not always possible, caring for your horse to reduce the risk of bacterial or viral infections will help reduce the chance of complications which affect the lungs.  Prompt diagnosis of other problems affecting the lungs can also prevent pleurisy developing.

Preventing bacterial and viral infections that may lead to complications affecting the lungs, chest, and other parts of your horse's body is essential for optimum health. Prompt medical care when needed is crucial.