Evaluating Airway Function in Horses: How Well Do Vets Agree?

Arytenoid function can impact both sales price and airway function in horses, so it’s important for both buyers and sellers that veterinarians evaluate it consistently, one practitioner says.
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airway function in horses
Arytenoid function can significantly impact sale purchase prices, said Plevin, so it’s important for both buyers and sellers that veterinarians evaluate function consistently. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Before buyers raise their hands to bid on Thoroughbred racing prospects at a sale, they’ve had their veterinarians evaluate the horses head to toe. This includes using videoendoscopy to assess the function of the arytenoid cartilages, in the throat, which can make or break airway performance. But how consistent are veterinarians in conducting these evaluations? Could one practitioner be “passing” a horse that another veterinarian “fails”?

Sarah Plevin, BVMS, MRCVS, CVA, Dipl. ABVP, ACVSMR, and colleagues recently conducted a study on the topic, and she presented the results at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California. Plevin is sports medicine specialist at Florida Equine Veterinary Associates, in Ocala.

One of the most common upper respiratory tract disorders in racehorses is recurrent laryngeal neuropathy, or roaring. This condition involves paralysis of one or both of those arytenoid cartilages, which form either side of the trachea entrance, abducting—or opening—during breathing, resulting in respiratory noise and decreased performance. In North America veterinarians grade these animals ordinally on a 4-point scale, where a Grade 4 indicates paralyzed arytenoid cartilages

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Written by:

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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