While clear nasal discharge can occur from time to time with little concern, any thick yellow, white or green-coloured discharge should be seen by a veterinarian as it may indicate a viral infection, which can affect your horse’s health and rapidly spread between horses.
Nasal discharge is a common sign of many health problems involving the lungs, sinuses, guttural pouches and related structures. Discharge from your horse’s nose will fall into one or more of four main categories, including:
- Serous (watery)
- Purulent (coloured/infectious)
- Hemorrhagic (Bloody/blood-tinged)
- Feed containing
In this instance, a green (purulent) discharge would, most likely, indicate the presence of a viral infection, which are often highly contagious to other horses.
The most common viral respiratory infections are equine influenza, herpes virus and rhinotracheitis. However, diagnosis by a veterinarian will identify the exact cause and determine the best treatment options for your horse.
Diagnosis will involve taking your horse’s history, followed by a thorough physical examination. Endoscopy and digital radiography (x-ray) may be used to detect anything unusual, like foreign bodies, infections, tumours and choke.
If the green discharge contains any food material, it may indicate a choke episode. This condition is of great concern as it predisposes your horse to developing pneumonia, which can mean a long road to recovery.
If a viral infection is diagnosed, your horse will be treated with antibiotics, rest and careful management. All tack and feed buckets used by your horse should be disinfected and, where possible, you should limit contact between horses.
Nasal discharge may be one of the first signs you notice if your horse is unwell. Any disease can worsen if you wait too long. Consulting your veterinarian will help to prevent more serious problems and drastically reduce the spread of infection.
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