Equine asthma is a chronic inflammatory respiratory tract disease caused by an immunological reaction due to hypersensitivity. The disease resembles human asthma. In asthma, the respiratory tract of the horse responds to dust in inhaled air, resulting in increased mucus secretion as well as the obstruction and subsequent remodelling of the airways. Long-term exposure to dust and moulds in the air in stables is considered the primary factor predisposing horses to the disorder. The role of respiratory tract infections in the onset of asthma remains unclear.
Equine asthma is divided into mild/moderate and severe asthma. In the mild forms of the disease, clear symptoms may not be observed, but the horse’s functioning may be reduced. In severe forms of the disease, the horse pants and coughs. When examining the respiratory tract, the horse undergoes a general physical examination, in addition to which blood samples are taken, manure samples, if needed, are collected, the horse’s airways are examined and, if needed, lavage samples are taken from the respiratory tract. In addition, an X-ray of the lungs can be taken. With the help of these tests and examinations, other problems associated with the respiratory tract can be excluded, including bacterial, viral and parasitic infections as well as structural problems in the respiratory tract.
The pathogenetic mechanism of equine asthma is not fully known, which hinders the early diagnosis and accurate treatment of the disease. Asthma research is conducted to determine the pathogenetic mechanism and to ensure better treatment for horses.
Patient data from the Equine Hospital are utilised in a research project looking into the reliability of various respiratory tract specimen collection techniques. The results will help veterinarians to choose the most reliable way of examining patients suffering from respiratory tract-related ailments.
Collaboration is also conducted with the Finnish Equine Information Centre in Kuopio, which investigates the incidence of respiratory tract infections among free-range foals and related risk factors. In addition, the quality of bacteria living in the respiratory tracts of free-range foals is studied.