• horse;
  • diagnostic;
  • thoracic;
  • neoplasia;
  • pulmonary


The diagnosis of thoracic neoplasia in the horse can be difficult due to the nonspecific nature of the clinical signs and their overlap with other pulmonary diseases. Haematological and serum biochemical evaluation, thoracic ultrasonography, radiography, endoscopic examination, and, where appropriate, thoracocentesis and pleural fluid cytology may all be helpful in reaching a diagnosis. Granular cell tumours are the most frequently reported primary pulmonary tumours of horses. They occur as single or multiple masses adjacent to bronchi and bronchioles, and the mass typically extends into the airway, resulting in partial or complete occlusion of the lumen. Thymic tumours are classified as benign or metastatic, based on evidence of tissue invasiveness, even though they uniformly appear benign histologically. These tumours are derived from epithelial reticular cells of the thymus and are rare in horses. Other primary thoracic neoplasms originate from various pulmonary tissues and are primarily reported as single case reports: pulmonary and bronchial carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, bronchogenic squamous cell carcinoma, bronchial myxoma, pulmonary chondrosarcoma, pulmonary leiomyosarcoma and pleuropulmonary blastoma. Clinical signs of these primary pulmonary neoplasms are dependent on the tumour type and location, but commonly include chronic cough, weight loss, anorexia, fever and respiratory difficulty; ventral oedema, pleural effusion and epistaxis are also frequently observed. Mesothelioma is a rare primary pleural tumour arising from the mesothelium of the pleura, pericardium and peritoneum. The clinical presentation in horses includes weight loss, respiratory difficulty and large volume pleural effusion. The tumour appears ultrasonographically as multiple small nodules on a thick serosal surface and pleural biopsy is diagnostic. Lymphoma is the most common haematopoietic neoplasm in horses, which can present with 4 main manifestations of lesions: mediastinal, multicentric, alimentary and cutaneous. Common clinical features include chronic weight loss, lethargy, anorexia, subcutaneous oedema, lymphadenopathy, colic, bleeding tendency and diarrhoea. Coughing and laboured respiratory effort are often apparent in individuals suffering from mediastinal masses. In such instances, pleural effusion may result in severe pulmonary atelectasis and pulmonary function is significantly compromised. Haemangiosarcoma is the second most common metastatic thoracic neoplasm in horses. Disseminated haemangiosarcoma is aggressive and rapidly progressive. The clinical presentation often includes tachypnoea, pale or icteric mucous membranes, respiratory distress, epistaxis, and subcutaneous, cutaneous or intramuscular masses. Other tumour types that metastasise to the thoracic cavity include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, fibrosarcoma, metastatic melanoma, mastocytoma and undifferentiated sarcoma. The clinical features of these tumours are generally nonspecific and often relate more to the primary site of tumour formation.