You are here

Airway Disease in Racehorses More Prevalent Than Previously Thought, Study Reveals

Photo of a horse raceRacehorses need their breath to run their best. But inflammatory airway disease (IAD) can rob them of their stamina.

New research in the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) at the University of Guelph shows the disease is much more common than previously thought.

“We looked microscopically at the lung tissue of horses that died during or just after races, and quantified the inflammatory cells within their airways,” said Prof. Luis Arroyo, Department of Clinical Studies. “We expected to find that the majority of the animals would have normal airways, with only a small number actually affected with the disease, but that was not the case.”

Graduate student investigator Federika ter Woort, under the supervision of OVC professor emeritus Laurent Viel, collaborated with pathobiology professor Jeff Caswell and Arroyo in the discovery that most of the horses had some degree of IAD, with mild to severe airway changes.

Previous research suggested the disease occurs in up to half of equine athletes.

“The disease was known to be common in racehorses, but not as widespread as this study reveals,” said Caswell. “The findings suggest that IAD does not result from unique exposure of an affected horse to the stimulus that causes the disease. But rather the research suggests that all racehorses may be exposed, with inflammation of the airways experienced by many.”

Published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research, the study examined lung tissue from 95 deceased racehorses, including thoroughbreds, standardbreds and quarter horses that had actively raced or trained before their deaths.

This was the first study to assess inflammation on a tissue level and the first to discover airway inflammation in horses not specifically selected for poor performance.

Read the entire article on the University of Guelph website