Nasal discharge in a horse can range from a non-issue to something truly life-threatening. Oftentimes drainage is nothing to be concerned about as the mucous membranes in the nasal passages can be aggravated from something as benign as dust in the arena or pollen. However, there are times that nasal discharge can indicate an emergency, reports The Horse.
A horse owner or caretaker should note the amount of discharge; if blood is present; the color and consistency of the discharge; if the drainage is coming from one or both nostrils; and if it smells. It's also helpful to note if the horse is acting normally: Is he bright, is he eating and drinking, is he going to the bathroom and can he tolerate exercise? What are his vital signs? Does the horse have a fever or act colicky?
A horse with watery or white nasal discharge that shows no other signs of illness is most likely reacting to irritants in his environment.
A horse with thick, yellowish discharge coming from both nostrils that is acting sluggish may have a bacterial or viral infection. Horses with any infection will act abnormally, go off their feed and otherwise be unengaged. These horses should be seen by a veterinarian.
A horse with a cream-like discharge from his nose could have a bacterial infection or a guttural pouch infection and should be seen by a veterinarian.
A horse that has a flowing bloody nose could have a bacterial or fungal infection and needs to be seen immediately by a veterinarian; this could be indicative of a guttural pouch infection. Additionally, a bloody nose could indicate a fungal infection of the internal carotid artery; if a fungal infection erodes the lining of the artery, the horse could bleed out rapidly. Additional causes of bloody noses could include foreign bodies lodged in nostrils or sinus cysts.
A horse that has foamy or semi-solid nasal discharge could be choking; the semi-solids could be food. A veterinarian should be called to resolve the blockage.
A horse that has rust-colored bloody discharge mixed with lots of mucus could be dealing with an ethmoid hematoma. This hematoma is benign and vascular, and can grow into the nasal passages. Non-life threatening, treatment generally involves injection of formalin into the hematoma or surgical removal.
Nasal drainage can be key to a horse's wellbeing and care should be taken to assess what kind of discharge he has.
Read more at The Horse.
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