When your horse has a runny nose

This is the time of year when many of us have a cold. But while most of us shrug off a runny nose (unless we’re worried about COVID), when your horse has one, it can be an indication of a more serious illness.

Yesterday, Zelda presented with white mucus coming from her right nostril. While her temperature was within the range of normal, it started to rise — starting at 98.7 and hitting 99.9 within about two hours. More important, the barn owner (BO) reported that she looked glum and wasn’t interested in her hay. When Zelda doesn’t eat, you know there’s a problem (she did eat her breakfast, so I knew it wasn’t an emergency). Since I’d been out to ride her the afternoon before, I knew she hadn’t had any symptoms, and had been acting normally, so this came on quickly.

Luckily for me, my vet is only 15 minutes from the new barn, so it was reasonably easy to get someone to look at her. Given that I’ll be away for a few days next week, I wanted to make sure she was on the road to recovery before it became a real problem. Also, being in a barn with other horses, I didn’t want her to infect anyone else.

By the time the vet arrived, her temperature was up to 100.5. Still not really worrying, but on it’s way. The vet reported that her lungs sounded clear, her lymph nodes felt normal and her breath had no odor. One sided mucus discharge can be a sign of an infected tooth, so looking for signs of infection are important.

The vet pulled blood for a CBC (complete blood count) and SAA (Serum amyloid A) which is a protein that is useful for gauging a horse’s level of infection and inflammation. These tests are run while you wait, so we were able to confirm that she had no active infection.

Based on the results, the vet recommended SMZs for the next 7 days and to give her a day or two off. As of this morning, she already felt much better. She has the sparkle back in her eye and is back to being her mischievous and somewhat opinionated self.

What do you do when your horse has a runny nose?

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