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Misty from Alberta, Canada, writes:

Dear Dr. Dave,

I have a mare that I have taken to two different veterinarians so far, and have received two different diagnoses. The first said that she might have a lung infection or maybe heaves, and the second said possible allergies (she was scoped by the second veterinarian). At a recent Jackpot run, she bled from both nostrils and people told me not to worry about it. Any suggestions?

Dear Misty,

Thank you Misty for your question. We probably need more information about your mare. How old is she and how long have you had these concerns about her? What was your initial concern? What problem did she have when you took her to the veterinarian in the first place? Has she been bleeding from the nostrils for some time, or did she just begin after her scoping? When she was scoped, did they pass the scope up both nostrils?

A performance horse can be viewed like a sports car in that they need fuel and oxygen for the engine to work properly and produce power. Any problem with the respiratory system is a real concern. Broodmares and lawn ornaments are able to survive with a compromised lung, but not the athlete.

Typically, lung infections and heaves can be differentiated relatively easily, however, allergies can certainly affect the lungs and cause the horse some respiratory stress.

If the nasal bleeding is from both nostrils, it is generally considered that the source of the blood is coming from below the head, e.g., the lungs. If the bleeding is only from one nostril, then we would limit our attention to the head. In your case, bleeding from both nostrils would indicate some disease in the lungs. Many racing horses bleed undetected from the lungs. If the bleeding does not extend to the nostril, nobody knows. Bleeding from the nostril indicates to me a serious problem and a condition which may compromise her performance.

Condition, environment, and stress are all factors which can induce bleeding. I encourage you to have your veterinarian scope your mare after she has competed to determine the extent of the bleeding. Then formalize a treatment plan to allow your mare the freedom of easy breathing. There are several treatment modalities for "bleeders."

Good health and good horses,

Dr. Dave