What Is Entrapped Epiglottis In Horses?

For horses that compete at top levels, it is important that they are healthy and in top shape. In some cases, entrapped epiglottis in horses can cause problems in a horse’s performance and affect their career. It is important to understand this condition and what treatment options are available.

Though not life-threatening, entrapped epiglottis does affect a horse’s performance and can prevent them from competing at high levels. In addition, it can cause ulceration and infection if it is left unchecked. Fortunately, there are treatment options available to help your horse overcome this condition.

Entrapped Epiglottis In Horses
Horse in Spanish | Basic Spanish Vo...
Horse in Spanish | Basic Spanish Vocabulary

Entrapped epiglottis or epiglottic entrapment is a condition in horses that occurs when the aryepiglottic folds become abnormal and get positioned above the dorsal epiglottis surface, covering the epiglottis. The condition causes air turbulence to get trapped when a horse is exercising, leading to abnormal breathing noises.

Entrapped epiglottis can lead to breathing difficulties in horses, making them reluctant to exercise. Described as “an upper airway abnormality” it can cause loud respiratory noises and make horses intolerant to exercise.

Entrapped epiglottis is a relatively uncommon breathing condition in horses. Most horses with entrapped epiglottis are able to make a full recovery and eventually return to regular exercise.

Symptoms And Causes Of Epiglottic Entrapment

The most common symptoms in entrapped epiglottis are loud, abnormal breathing noises when exercising. Such noises include wheezing, rattling, and gurgling. Horses may also become reluctant to exercise and may not be at the top of their performance.

Other common symptoms include coughing, nasal discharge, and head shaking. In some cases, you may also see water and food coming from a horse’s nostrils.

Causes of entrapped epiglottis include the aryepiglottic fold having an abnormal shape and growth, the fold obstructing the epiglottis and the airway, and a laryngeal disorder. In some cases, it can happen from a
condition from birth, with the cause being unknown.

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Diagnosis For Epiglottic Entrapment

You may first notice the signs of entrapped epiglottis when exercising your horse. If the noises become common when your horse is working, you should contact your veterinarian for an official diagnosis. When left untreated, the tissue can thicken leading to the condition becoming chronic and potentially leading to ulcers or infection.

Diagnosis for entrapped epiglottis generally involves a video endoscopy and a dynamic endoscopy. These two forms of endoscopy can help veterinarians make a proper diagnosis to determine if your horse has the condition or not. From there, your veterinarian can determine a treatment plan for the condition of your horse.

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Entrapped Epiglottis In Horses

Before an official treatment, your horse will likely have to refrain from heavy exercise. Regular exercise can become uncomfortable for your horse while they have entrapped epiglottis.

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Treatments Available For Entrapped Epiglottis In Horses

Fortunately, if your horse is diagnosed with entrapped epiglottis there are treatment options available. Though a trapped epiglottis can become free on its own, treatment is needed when it remains stuck or the problem occurs frequently. The most common treatment for the condition is surgery.

The standard surgery for entrapped epiglottis consists of splitting the tissues of the aryepiglottic folds. A traditional hooked bistoury technique is used, with the procedure being very quick and effective. However, depending on the type of tool used, the chance of relapse ranges from 5 to 40 percent.

Another method for treating entrapped epiglottis is surgically removing the tissue. The removable can be performed by a hook or laser. This method of surgery is very successful, as there are often no complications or no chances of reoccurrence.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Entrapped Epiglottis In Horses?

Treatment for entrapped epiglottis is straightforward and effective. In most cases, horses will return to full health within three to six weeks of the treatment. Your veterinarian may provide medication and come for additional check-ups as your horse continues to heal.

Once your horse is completely healed, it will be able to return to exercising regularly. You should return your horse slowly back into their exercise routine to ensure you don’t hinder their recovery. Most horses will be able to return to their full performance after the surgery.

How Long Does It Take A Horse To Recover From Epiglottic Entrapment

What Does it Mean When A Horse Is Entrapped?

When a horse has entrapped epiglottis it means that the aryepiglottic fold completely obscures the apex and lateral margins of the epiglottis. When this happens, horses will develop breathing problems when exercising and will often become reluctant to work.

Understanding Entrapped Epiglottis In Horses

Though it is relatively rare, entrapped epiglottis can cause breathing problems such as wheezing, rattling, and gurgling when a horse exercises. Other common symptoms a horse may exhibit include head shaking, coughing, and sneezing. This can lead to a horse becoming unwilling to exercise as they struggle to breathe comfortably.

Though not life-threatening, it may cause horses to be unable to compete as well as lead to ulcers or infection. Thankfully, the surgery is straightforward and horses will be able to return to work within six weeks.

Do you have any questions regarding entrapped epiglottis in horses? If so, please ask any questions about this rare breathing condition in horses in the comment section below.

FAQ’s

What Does it Mean When a Horse is Entrapped?

When a horse has entrapped epiglottis it means that the aryepiglottic fold completely obscures the apex and lateral margins of the epiglottis. When this happens, horses will develop breathing problems when exercising and will often become reluctant to work.

What is Epiglottic Retroversion in Horses?

Epiglottic retroversion in horses happens when the epiglottis retreats into the rima glottidis opening, causing breathing problems. It is a rare condition and is usually diagnosed by a veterinarian via an endoscopy.

What Causes the Epiglottis to Malfunction?

Common causes that lead to the epiglottis malfunctioning include the aryepiglottic fold having an abnormal shape and growth, the fold obstructing the epiglottis and the airway and a laryngeal disorder. In some cases, horses may even be born with the condition, though the cause is unknown.

How Do you Fix Epiglottis?

In some cases, an entrapped epiglottis is able to fix itself, causing no need for intervention. However, when it does not correct on its own or happens frequently, surgery is required. Surgery includes either splitting the tissues of the aryepiglottic folds or simply just removing the tissue, both of which are generally successful.