Respiratory medicine

Much of the racehorses ability to perform optimally rests on full respiratory function. When a horse is coughing persistently after exercise or has a streaming nasal discharge, the cardinal signs are clear cut, and the horse is likely to require a period of rest from fast exercise and may need some veterinary intervention to restore full health.

However frequently such indications are rarely that obvious and the signs may be so subtle as to go unnoticed. In these situations further investigation may be warranted. This normally takes the form initially of an endoscope examination and tracheal wash.

Examination of the respiratory tract by endoscope can reveal a wealth of information. Normally at the same time as the visual assessment, a tracheal wash sample is obtained. The quality of the sample is partly dependent on how soon the sample is obtained after exercise and the amount of work the horse has just done. The horse should be tied up after exercise and should not be given access to any feed.

For further details on tracheal wash analysis, please refer to the laboratory section of the website. Tracheal wash samples are the cornerstone of respiratory evaluation of individual horses, but also give an indication of general yard health when multiple horses are assessed.