Efficacy of three corticosteroids for the treatment of heaves





  • C. BERNEY,

  • D. PERONI,



This study used a cross-over design to compare the efficacy of 3 corticosteroids for the relief of airway obstruction and inflammation in 9 heaves-affected horses. The severity of airway obstruction and inflammation was quantified by measurement of lung function and by bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) cytology, respectively. Airway obstruction was induced by stabling the horses and they remained stabled during the 10 day treatment period. Lung function was measured before treatment (baseline), at Days 3, 7, and 10 of treatment, and after 30 days at pasture. BALF cytology was investigated at baseline, Day 10, and at pasture. All 9 horses received the following 4 treatments in random order: no treatment, daily oral prednisone tablets (1 mg/kg), daily i.v. dexamethasone solution (0.1 mg/kg), and i.m. dexamethasone-21-isonicotinate (0.04 mg/kg) every 3 days. When horses received no treatment, lung function did not change significantly during stabling but improved at pasture. In all horses, daily i.v. administration of dexamethasone solution improved lung function within 3 days to levels as good as or better than those measured at pasture. Dexamethasone-21-isonicotinate was rapidly effective in 8 of 9 horses. The other horse did not respond to this drug. Prednisone tablets were without effect on Days 3 and 7 of treatment, but by Day 10, 5 of 9 horses showed some improvement in lung function. Dexamethasone i.v. solution decreased the percent neutrophils in BALF at Day 10. Other treatments had no effect on BALF cytology. These results demonstrate that dexamethasone rapidly relieved airway obstruction in heaves-affected horses. Oral prednisone had inconsistent effects but may be beneficial in some horses after more than a week of treatment.