• horse;
  • swallow;
  • dorsal displacement;
  • pressure;
  • controlled


Reasons for performing study: The relationship between dorsal displacement of the soft palate (DDSP) and swallowing is unclear.

Objective: To quantify the relationship between DDSP and swallowing in horses at exercise.

Hypotheses: The frequency of swallowing increases immediately prior to DDSP in horses at exercise.

Methods: Videoendoscopic and upper airway pressure data were collated from horses with a definitive diagnosis of DDSP at exercise. Horses with no upper airway abnormalities were matched by age, breed and sex and used as controls. Sixty-nine horses were identified with a definitive diagnosis of DDSP during the study interval. Airway pressure data were available for 42 horses.

Results: The majority of horses displaced at high exercising speeds while accelerating; a smaller number displaced during deceleration after peak speed had been reached. Horses swallowed significantly more frequently in the 1 min immediately preceding DDSP than in the control horses at equivalent speeds. DDSP at exercise results in a significant increase in tracheal expiratory pressure, a significant decrease in pharyngeal expiratory pressure and a significantly less negative pharyngeal inspiratory pressure compared to matched controls and compared to the pressures during the 1 min interval prior to DDSP. There was no significant difference between any measure of airway pressure before or after a swallow when examined at each time interval in the DDSP population.

Conclusions: The frequency of swallowing decreases with increasing speed in normal horses. In contrast, the frequency of swallowing increases immediately prior to onset of DDSP. This is not a result of pharyngeal and tracheal pressure changes.

Potential relevance: The increased frequency of swallowing observed prior to DDSP may be related to the aetiology of the disease.