Upper and lower airway disease is a common cause of poor performance particularly in high performance/ high intensity disciplines such as racing, eventing and polo. Respiratory endoscopy is very much part of routine veterinary care of racehorses, particularly during and after exercise. We perform standing endoscopy on a routine basis and our vets are on the Epsom Downs most mornings checking horses coming back from exercise and collected samples can be quickly analysed. In addition we can arrange ‘over ground’ endoscopy to assess horses whilst they are exercising. This relatively new technique is fully mobile and can be performed on your yard.
It is not uncommon to have a high performance horse that is described as ‘making a noise’. There are a variety of different causes of this the most common of which is by a condition called laryngeal hemiplegia. This is a progressive condition which normally affects the right side of the larynx. This problem is thought to originate from pathology related to a nerve called the right recurrent laryngeal nerve. The condition can affect performance as the horse cannot intake sufficient oxygen, particularly at higher speeds. The condition can be diagnosed by endoscopic evaluation of the airway which involves passing a ‘scope’ into the throat of the horse, this is performed un-sedated and is relatively well tolerated. Surgical treatments such as a ‘tie-back’ are available, these procedures are aimed to expand the size of the airway to allow better airflow into the trachea. Evaluation by any or our experienced vets could may be worth considering if you suspect an abnormality.