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Equine Practice
Differential diagnosis of abnormal respiratory noises in the exercising horse
  1. Jacquelyn McCann

    Jacquelyn McCann graduated from Liverpool in 1992, after which she spent some time working in mixed and equine referral practice, specialising in equine soft tissue surgery and internal medicine. She subsequently undertook a threeyear residency in equine soft tissue surgery at Edinburgh University. She obtained the certificate in equine medicine (internal medicine) in 1998. She is currently working in a large first opinion and referral equine practice in Gloucestershire.


UPPER respiratory tract airflow in horses can increase from 240 litres/minute at rest to 4500 litres/minute during maximal exercise. At the same time, the respiratory rate may increase to 148 breaths/minute. In normal horses, the nostrils, pharynx and larynx dilate during exercise to accommodate this increased airflow and relatively little respiratory noise is produced. Abnormalities of the upper respiratory tract that restrict airflow during fast exercise cause turbulence and often result in poor exercise tolerance and the production of abnormal respiratory sounds. It is important that clinicians are able to identify abnormal exercise-related respiratory noises, differentiate them from the normal sounds produced by exercising horses and assess their significance with regard to the exercise capacity and use of the horse.

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