• Open Access

Evaluation of Coughing and Nasal Discharge as Early Indicators for An Increased Risk to Develop Equine Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO)


  • This work will be presented at the WEAS 2013 in Calgary in abstract form



It is often assumed that horses with mild respiratory clinical signs, such as mucous nasal discharge and occasional coughing, have an increased risk of developing recurrent airway obstruction (RAO).


Compared to horses without any clinical signs of respiratory disease, those with occasional coughing, mucous nasal discharge, or both have an increased risk of developing signs of RAO (frequent coughing, increased breathing effort, exercise intolerance, or a combination of these) as characterized by the Horse Owner Assessed Respiratory Signs Index (HOARSI 1–4).


Two half-sibling families descending from 2 RAO-affected stallions (n = 65 and n = 47) and an independent replication population of unrelated horses (n = 88).


In a retrospective cohort study, standardized information on occurrence and frequency of coughing, mucous nasal discharge, poor performance, and abnormal breathing effort—and these factors combined in the HOARSI—as well as management factors were collected at intervals of 1.3–5 years.


Compared to horses without clinical signs of respiratory disease (half-siblings 7%; unrelated horses 3%), those with mild respiratory signs developed clinical signs of RAO more frequently: half-siblings with mucous nasal discharge 35% (P < .001, OR: 7.0, sensitivity: 62%, specificity: 81%), with mucous nasal discharge and occasional coughing 43% (P < .001, OR: 9.9, sensitivity: 55%, specificity: 89%); unrelated horses with occasional coughing: 25% (P = .006, OR = 9.7, sensitivity: 75%, specificity: 76%).

Conclusions and Clinical importance

Occasional coughing and mucous nasal discharge might represent an increased risk of developing RAO.