Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Diagnosing Respiratory Problems in Sport Horses

Veterinarians have tools at their disposal, ranging from imaging to sample analysis, that can help pinpoint the cause of respiratory problems in sport horses.

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Respiratory problems in sport horses
Dynamic upper airway endoscopy can help diagnose obstructions that occur when the horse is exercising. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Julie Fjeldborg

Frequent coughing, increased respiratory effort, and nasal discharge are obvious signs of pulmonary (lung) disease in horses. But not all signs are so apparent. In fact, said Renaud Léguillette, DVM, MSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVSMR, the less discernable clinical signs are what most frequently accompany equine lower airway disease, making it challenging for veterinarians to diagnose.

Léguillette, an associate professor of equine internal medicine and Calgary Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, in Alberta, Canada, reviewed tools veterinarians can use to diagnose pulmonary disease in sport horses at the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 17-21 in San Antonio, Texas. He focused on noninfectious inflammatory conditions but noted the importance of distinguishing between those and infectious conditions in daily practice.

Respiratory issues are some of the most frequently diagnosed conditions in sport horses evaluated for poor performance, he said, and one of the leading causes of training

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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