• Open Access

Effect of Airway Disease on Blood Gas Exchange in Racehorses


Purdue University, 625 Harrison Street, West Lafayette, IN 47909; e-mail: couetill@purdue.edu.


Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD), exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH), and upper airway obstruction (UAO) are common respiratory tract diseases that can decrease performance. The purpose of this retrospective study was to compare bronchoalveolar lavage fluid cytology and arterial blood gas analysis during a treadmill test by poorly performing racehorses presented to Purdue University. One hundred thirty-two horses with a history of poor performance were included in this study. Ten horses with no history or diagnosis of EIPH, IAD, or UAO served as controls. Horses were evaluated by rhinolaryngoscopy for upper airway abnormalities and underwent a standardized treadmill test, and samples were collected for blood gas analysis. Horses with IAD or EIPH had a more severe exercise-induced hypoxemia, (mean ± SD; 84.8 ± 1.5 and 86.0 ± 1.7 mm Hg average PaO2, respectively), than horses in the control group (92.8 ± 2.1 mm Hg). The average PaO2 of horses with only UAO (88.3 ± 3.3 mm Hg) was not significantly different from control horses. Gas exchanges were the most severely impaired in horses affected with both EIPH and UAO because they exhibited the lowest PaO2 and highest PaCO2 values (66.5 ± 15.2 and 52.2 ± 6.3 mm Hg, respectively).