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Some forms of pneumonia are more serious than others such as aspergillosis, which is fatal in close to 90% of cases and candidiasis, which is fatal in 45-70% of cases. There are a lot of different types and just as many different treatments, which include antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, anti-inflammatory drugs, bronchodilators, and oxygen. With treatment, a healthy horse will almost always recover within a few weeks. However, older horses, foals, or horses with chronic illnesses may take longer to heal.
Pneumonia in horses is a lung infection that can be from bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses, or aspiration (inhalation). Pneumonia can be a very serious disease in horses. In fact, it can even be fatal in some cases. The most common cause of pneumonia is streptococcus zooepidemicus, which is a form of bacteria. The signs of pneumonia are an increased body temperature, runny nose, cough, wheezing, and respiratory distress.
Since there are so many causes and types of pneumonia, the signs of infection can vary quite a bit. However, the most often reported include:
Aspirational - breathing in dirt, hay, or other foreign substances
Fungal - aspergillus spp., candida spp., coccidioides immitis, cryptococcus neoformans, histoplasma capsulatum, mucor, phycomycetes, and rhizopus
Viral - equine influenza, herpesvirus, and arteritis
Your veterinarian (preferably one that specializes in horses) will need your horse’s medical history, vaccination records, recent illnesses or injuries, type of work performed, and what symptoms you have seen so far. A complete physical examination will need to be done, which should include palpation of the lungs and abdomen, listening to your horse’s lung sounds, and recording body temperature, weight, height, reflexes, capillary refill time (CRT), body condition score, personality, blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, and conformation. You may need to trot, canter, and walk your horse while the veterinarian watches, analyzing behavior, muscle performance, and joint function while in motion. The veterinarian will start with a standing examination, checking your horse from head to tail looking for anything out of the ordinary such as swelling, warmth, redness, or lesions.
For any kind of pulmonary or respiratory illness in a horse, several thoracic radiographs (x-rays), ultrasounds, and CT scans are necessary. Collecting samples of fluid through a bronchoalveolar lavage or tracheal wash are also important in determining the cause. Microscopic examination of lesions taken from tissue and sputum from the lungs and airway can be extremely helpful. However, the most definitive tests are microbiologic culture, immunohistochemistry, or polymerase chain reaction. In addition, a complete blood count (CBC), chemical panel, blood and urine cultures, and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) will be done.
Treating your horse depends on the area and severity of the infection, the cause (agent) of infection, and the amount of finances available for treatment. Some of the treatments include oral, intravenous, or topical medications, hospitalization, fluid therapy, and oxygen therapy.
Antibiotics antivirals, antifungals, bronchodilators, nonsteroidal anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDS), and corticosteroids may be given, if needed.
In many cases, your horse may need to be hospitalized for observation and further treatment as needed.
Oxygen and Fluid Therapy
Many horses need oxygen to help them breathe and intravenous (IV) fluid therapy to prevent dehydration.
Your horse’s prognosis depends on the type and cause of the pneumonia as well as your horse’s age and overall health. With aspergillosis or candidiasis, chances of recovery are low to moderate. All other types and causes of pneumonia can be treated successfully in many cases with treatment. Be sure to give your horse all of the medication even if the symptoms go away after the first few days. Not taking the full round of antibiotics can cause your horse to relapse.
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Pneumonia Average Cost
From 413 quotes ranging from $2,500 - $8,000
Tennessee walking horse
2 found helpful
My 7 year old gelding choked, developed aspiration pneumonia and endotoxemia within the course of a week. He was given antibiotics immediately after the choke. Over the course of 4 weeks he was on Exceed, gentamicin, polymyxin B, banamine, and 2 weeks of uniprim. He seemed to recover, however 3 weeks later I noticed his breathing was labored at the walk, his winter coat is not shedding out and his topline is diminishing. The vet came out and scoped and ultrasounded him. Several lung abscesses greater than 5cm were identified as well as necrotic tissue. He also found a grade 4 laryngeal hemiplegia. No fluid or evidence of gas from anaerobic bacteria were observed. He is now on chloramphenicol and will be ultrasounded again in 2 weeks. My vet is very optimistic that he will completely recover and return to his former healthy state. Financially I cannot afford any additional treatment and am concerned about his chances of recovery. What is the likelihood of recovery? What are potential complications?
May 6, 2018
If your Veterinarian is optimistic about recovery, this is a good sign since we (as Veterinarians) generally stay on the side of caution; however without examining Milo myself I cannot second guess a diagnosis or prognosis offered by another Veterinarian. I understand that finances may be tight but you should follow your Veterinarian’s lead on this. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
May 6, 2018
0 found helpful
My horse is having a bad cough and a slightly runny nose. At the moment his snot is clear sometimes it has a whiteish tent I listened to his throat and he sounds like it's raspy I'm thinking it's something like aspirational pnemonioa. I left a whole hay bale in the field for him to eat instead of pulling it off an liminiting the amount he eats of the hay and giving it to him like I normally do. I'm assuming it's the dust from the hay causing it. Any tips on how to get him better?
April 20, 2018
Without examining Deuce I cannot determine the extent of any infection, possible aspiration or other issue; you should call out your Veterinarian for an examination since I cannot recommend or prescribe any prescription products without examining a patient first. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
April 21, 2018
Grade quarter horse
1 found helpful
What can I do for him? He’s an old free horse, we don’t have much to pay a vet. What can I do to make him comfortable? He eats fine, didn’t have a good weight to start with but is better than when we got him. He drinks well. I soak his feed daily so he has water intake period.
March 25, 2018
Without examining Rusty I cannot say what treatment you should give to him because without auscultating the chest I cannot determine severity of any respiratory disease and I cannot legally prescribe anything without a hands on physical examination. Respiratory difficulties may be caused by infections, parasites, allergies (dust) among other causes; I know that veterinary care can be expensive but it would be best to call a Veterinarian out now instead of waiting for things to get worse (and possibly more expensive). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
March 25, 2018
American Quarter horse
0 found helpful
Purchased mare in March, in April she started coughing during exercise. Dex was given and she stopped coughing. A month later she became coughing again. She was treated with exceed and Dex. The cough stopped. Another month goes by and I had her scoped to rule out bleeding (barrel horse) . Scope showed mucus but no bleeding and she was placed on SMZs for 30 days. The cough resolved and stayed resolved until she was off antibiotics for a week. She started coughing again, we returned for a scope. Scope showed a river of mucus with occasional displacement of the epiglottis. She wasn’t running a fever and blood test for infection was clean. Vet then started 30 day course of doxycycline BiD for 30 days. The cough resolved and follow up scope was clean. 6 days after a clean scope the cough returned. This time it was much worse. Mare could not breath when her front feet were picked up. Returned to the vet, we repeated scope and cultures were taken from lungs and trachea. Klebsiella was the verdict but the microbiologist confirmed it was very Drug Resistant. Mare was started on a probiotic and placed on Baytril for 12 days along with a 30 day course of SMZs. She was subsequently hospitalized for dehydration and listening of her stools. My question is, upon finishing treatment, what is the best way to rehab her lungs to full capacity? The only symptom ever exhibited was a cough. No discharge, no fever, no positive bloodwork for infection markers, just a cough.
0 found helpful
My horse is breathing heavily sometimes and coughing. She has had a respiratory infection in the past year. I have stared feeding her hay on the ground and watering it down along with her stall. She has always been in great condition and taken well care of. She has preformed well with no distress while I have had her. She did come down with somewhat colic like symptoms. A couple of weeks such as rolling,heavy breathing,no stomach noises,and kicking at her stomach. But later that evening she was fine and back to her self.
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