Inflammatory Airway Disease or IAD is a respiratory disease that typically affects young horses, as early as one year of age. This disease is tricky to diagnose as affected horses typically do not show increased respiratory efforts at rest. The exact cause is unknown, but is thought to be associated with inhalation of irritants like stable dust and air pollution.
Most horses with IAD will develop a lingering cough but no fever. Affected horses may be training fine but don’t perform well in competition and may also take longer to recover normal breathing. As the disease progresses, horses may show increased breathing efforts especially during exercise and become exercise intolerant. Some horses may display mild, watery or white nasal discharge especially after exercise. Otherwise, horses with IAD maintain a good appetite and appear bright and alert.
A study conducted in Europe by Dr. Julie Dauvillier and Dr. Emmanuelle van Erck-Westergren has found that feeding horses Haygain steamed hay could reduce the incidence of IAD by 63%.
482 horses which had been referred for a regular health check, poor performance or respiratory issues, were scoped and their case history and results recorded. The results found 84% of the horses examined were suffering from Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD) and that in 72% of all horses the presence of different types of fungi in the airways was established. The sources of these problems were found to be in the bedding and forage. They discovered that horses had a 3.8 times greater chance of being diagnosed with IAD if fungi were found in their airways. After analysing all the forage options (dry hay, soaked hay, haylage or Haygain steamed hay) steamed hay not only had the lowest risk but was the only method which significantly decreased the risk of IAD.