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.

Tracheotomy

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