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A closer look at equine respiratory health

Recently, the Leatherdale Equine Center (LEC) purchased a dynamic overground endoscope (OGE) to diagnose upper respiratory diseases in athletic horses. The scope, which attaches to the horse’s bridle and is inserted into the nose, feeds images wirelessly to a screen.

“The OGE helps us treat horses that come in for poor performance attributed to the upper respiratory area and allows us to evaluate its function during exercise,” explains Anna Firshman, BVSc, PhD, DACVIM, DACVSMR, associate clinical professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine.


For many athletic horses, strenuous exercise causes airway obstruction because of high-pressure swings around the upper respiratory tract. Racehorses are most afflicted by upper respiratory tract diseases, but show horses also experience them—along with “roaring” as a result, which often leads to docked points from judges.

The new OGE allows LEC veterinarians to easily view the upper respiratory system while a horse is being ridden, driven in harness, or worked on a lunge line. “Exercise can really change what the equine respiratory system looks like during examination,” Firshman says, “so we can now make diagnoses that we would not be able to make on a horse that is standing still.”

Firshman says the device is comfortable for the patient, easy to place, and helpful for real-time remote evaluations. The state-of-the-art tool also makes it possible for veterinarians at the University of Minnesota to precisely select the right surgery for a patient or make an assessment on whether surgery is needed.

With cross-collaboration performed by specialists in equine sports medicine, respiratory health, and surgery, the LEC is the perfect place for such a tool. “The expertise we have as a group makes us the right team for using this new equipment,” Firshman says.

Students at the College of Veterinary Medicine also benefit. The students in Firshman’s equine sports medicine rotation are exposed to the scope to learn how to set it up and get a quality image. “We also use it to facilitate a discussion on the conditions of the larynx in horses,” says Firshman. The process prepares students to use an OGE in their practice after graduation.

The LEC’s access to the OGE was made possible by funding from the Veterinary Medical Center as well as the Don and Isabelle French Large Animal Medicine Fund, which supports clinical equipment purchases, research projects, and resident training in the areas of large animal medicine and equine sports medicine. According to Firshman, the Frenches’ support was crucial. “This scope is a piece of equipment that we otherwise could not have had,” she says.

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 08:46
A closer look at equine respiratory health