Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Drainage from Both Nostrils (White, Yellow or Green)

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If this problem seems severe and has come on suddenly.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the signs are more intermittent and mild.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Mucous or excessive watery drainage from both nostrils is a very common sign of bacterial or viral upper respiratory tract infection. Upper respiratory infection is usually highly contagious, so your first consideration may be minimizing spread of disease to other horses. Wash your hands with antiseptic soap before touching other horses. Do not share tack or equipment with other horses, until your vet has seen the horse and determined the nature of the problem.

Two sided nasal discharge is also seen in respiratory diseases originating in the lower respiratory tract -windpipe (trachea) or lungs – as opposed to the sinuses and nasal passages in which there is usually discharge from only one nostril.

Small amounts of clear discharge from equine nostrils is considered a normal finding. White discharge is commonly associated with viral or allergic processes. Yellow discharge tends to be associated with bacterial infection. Green nasal discharge can indicate feed material within it.

A distressed horse with profuse green, watery discharge (containing feed material) from both nostrils and a deep cough likely has choke (esophageal feed obstruction). In very rare cases, intestinal obstruction can cause backup of fluid that ultimately comes out the nostrils.

WHAT TO DO

Horses that have yellow or white nasal discharge may have a contagious disease, so use caution to prevent spread of infection. Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the presence of fever, whether there is a swelling or discharge under their jaw and throat, or feed material contained in the discharge. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet’s approach is to use physical examination and a variety of diagnostics to rule out infectious disease. If there is risk of contagion, one of their priorities will be helping you prevent spread of disease.

POSSIBLE TREATMENTS or TherapiesTo Lessen or Resolve the Sign

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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