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Epiglottic Entrapment

What is Epiglottic Entrapment?

The epiglottis is a movable fold of cartilage that lies at the base of the tongue. When a horse swallows, it bends upward and directs feed and water through the esophagus. When a piece of tissue, called the aryepiglottic fold, is abnormal, the epiglottis becomes stuck on it, resulting in entrapment. When your horse breathes, the air turbulence which gets trapped results in abnormal breathing sounds. This condition can affect the ability of your horse to breathe normally, cause loud respiratory sounds, and make it reluctant to exercise due to the difficulty of breathing. If left unchecked, it can cause ulceration and infection.

What are the causes of Epiglottic Entrapment?

It can be caused by abnormal shape and growth of the aryepiglottic fold, a laryngeal disorder, or a condition from birth. As breathing occurs the fold obstructs epiglottis and the airway

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Epiglottic Entrapment can include:

  • Affected running and working performance

  • Reluctance to exercise

  • Coughing

  • Nasal discharge

  • Head shaking 

Is there a treatment?

Sometimes a trapped epiglottis can become unstuck on its own. When that doesn’t occur, or if the problem recurs frequently, surgical correction could be used to treat it. A simple surgery would involve either splitting the tissues of the aryepiglottic folds with a laser or sharp hook. This will free up the air passage and your horse should return to full working condition in 3-6 weeks. Relapse for this condition occurs around 5%.

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