A horse in respiratory distress or displaying other signs of airway ailments warrants a prompt call to the veterinarian; he or she has tools and experience to attempt to resolve the problem.  At the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas, Brett Woodie, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, a surgeon and owner at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, in Lexington, Ky., described several suggested treatment methods for common upper respiratory tract ailments.

In a previous lecture, he discussed different techniques veterinarians can use to evaluate upper respiratory tract abnormalities.


One of the most versatile treatment options for upper respiratory tract ailments involving potentially life-threatening obstructions or respiratory distress is a tracheotomy, which involves making an incision through the front of the neck into the trachea. While tracheotomies often are used to create a direct airway in emergencies (and in such cases, the earlier the better), Woodie said a planned tracheotomy can help treat some upper respiratory ailments.

Tracheotomies can be used to treat:

  • Bilateral arytenoid chondritis (inflammation of both arytenoid cartilages that results in severe obstruction of the upper airway);
  • Bilateral laryngeal paralysis (which prevents either arytenoid cartilage from opening, causing an obstruction at the entrance of the trachea also known as "bilateral roaring");
  • Seve