Horses suffer from a variety of upper airway diseases and dysfunctions. Each of which will result in decreased performance in your sport horse. The challenge of diagnosing upper air way dysfunction using a traditional endoscope is that many times, the upper airway functions normally when the horse is standing still. With a dynamic endoscope, the horse is able to perform the activity which triggers the problem.
Portable Treatment for Airway Dysfunctions
The dynamic endoscope is unobtrusive and portable—it can be done on the farm. It is less than 5 pounds and easily fits over a bridle so a horse can be exercised under saddle. The horse is exercised to induce the dysfunction while the endoscope records the upper airway activity for diagnosing the source of the problem.
Common Airway Dysfunctions
Exercise-induces upper airway problems include laryngeal hemiplegia and dorsal displacement of the soft palate. Laryngeal hemiplegia is paralysis of the larynx and vocal cords, which causes a “roaring” sound when a horse breaths. When a horse breathes in, they are creating negative pressure which pulls the paralyzed larynx closed, creating the roaring you hear.
If a horse suffers from dorsal displacement of the soft palate, the soft palette is up over the epiglottis. “In this case you get an incredibly large flutter sound”, said Dr. Mrad, “and those horses are almost always constantly gagging.”
Each of these conditions affects the horse’s ability to breathe.
Once diagnosed, both of these conditions can be treated surgically. Tie back surgery can be performed on a paralyzed larynx where the larynx is tied back out of the way. “A suture is placed that pulls the arotinoid cartilage back open and it leaves it open so the horse can breathe.” Dr. Mrad explains. In the case of a displaced soft palate, the epiglottis is tied forward pulled forward moving it out of the way of the soft palate.
Oxygen & Carbohydrates Are Needed for Energy
Why is it important for these conditions to be diagnosed and treated? When your horse needs a quick, sudden burst of energy for activities like barrel racing, show jumping, or racing, they need the ability to efficiently pull in oxygen. A horse needs oxygen to burn carbohydrates, which in turn gives your horse the energy to perform these tasks.
During strenuous activity, a horse can move up to 5 gallons of air through its lungs per breath and can take as many as two breaths per second. In order for the maximum amount of air to enter the lungs and receive the benefit of maximum carbohydrates burned for needed energy, the larynx must fully open. Horses with paralysis of the larynx or a displaced soft palette are unable to take in the required amount of air needed for exercise. As doctor Dr. Mrad explains, “When you run out of oxygen, you run out of gas.”
If your horse is making noise during exercise, make sure that you get your horse examed and treated for airway dysfunctions. This will help to maximize your horse’s athletic potential and avoid having an unhappy horse.