Testing for Respiratory Disease

Testing for Respiratory Disease

Sometimes if we suspect your horse may be suffering from respiratory disease we will recommend further testing. This may include endoscopy, x rays, Tracheal Washes or Broncho Alveolar Lavage. We have included some notes for you to read about these techniques to help understand why we do certain tests and how they are performed.


  • Endoscopy– This procedure involves passing a camera up the nose into the back of the throat in order for us to examine the anatomy of the nasopharynx and larynx. It allows us to examine where nasal discharge is coming from, any foreign bodies or abnormal masses and allows us to look for evidence of inflammation within the trachea and upper respiratory tract. It is normally performed without sedation, although some horses may be sedated if necessary.
  • Tracheal Wash – If we suspect your horse of having a lower respiratory tract problem- i.e lungs then we will often perform this test to identify any bacteria growing within the lungs or windpipe. The endoscope is passed into the windpipe and a fluid sample obtained. We then send this sample off to the laboratory for culture and sensitivity. This procedure can be performed at your yard and is often performed under mild sedation.
  • Broncho-Alveolar Lavage –The most common cause of a chronic cough in an adult horse is Recurrent Airway Obsruction(formally known as COPD). This describes a hypersensitivity of the lungs to inhaled allergens- pollens, dusts etc. This condition is normally diagnosed by performing a bronchoalveolar lavage. This procedure is normally performed under sedation. A tube is placed up the nose all the way into the lungs. We then squirt saline down the tube and then suck it back up to ‘wash’ cells from the lungs into the fluid. The sample is then sent to the laboratory , whereby a diagnosis is then made depending on the type and number of cells found.
  • Guttural Pouch Lavage – Used as a diagnostic test to assess whether there is an infectious agent within the guttural pouch. Commonly used in cases of suspected Strangles (Strep Equi var equi) to confirm diagnosis or conformation of cure. This method involves a catheter being placed into the guttural pouches and fluid being flushed in and aspirated. A guttural pouch wash is regarded as the gold standard for diagnosing strangles and confirming its cure.

Other Procedures


One of the most distressing conditions for an owner to witness is an episode of choke. Fortunately choke in horses refers to an obstruction of their food pipe (oeseophagus), as apposed to the windpipe and therefore is very rarely life threatening.It is quite a common condition and occurs when food blocks the oesophagus, which is […]

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Laminitis is a condition we see very frequently within our practice and is now an almost year round condition. Wherever there are overweight ponies and horses there will be cases of laminitis.  The two main causes of laminitis are Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Cushings Syndrome. There are other causes  ( traumatic or toxin associated), however […]

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Liver Biopsy

Liver biopsy is a procedure we perform when we suspect a horse may have a problem with their liver. It is very rare to suspect liver disease simply based on clinical signs, the vast majority of liver disease cases we see are diagnosed following blood tests (see section on blood testing). Although blood tests will […]

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Ultrasound is a technique we often use to diagnose soft tissue injuries and abnormalities. An ultrasound machine is composed of a probe and a processor. The probe emits ultrasound waves which bounce back off the tissue and are then processed by the processor to create an image on the screen. The most common situation we […]

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Taking blood is a procedure very commonly performed and is done for a number of reasons. Sometimes it is to test for a certain disease in particular- for example evidence of strangles, although most of the time we take blood in order to get more information that allows us to work out what condition your […]

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New House Farm, Belbroughton Rd, Blakedown DY10 3JH
Monday - Friday 8:00am - 5:00pm
Saturday 8:30am - 5:00pm
Sunday Closed