Reasons for performing study: Dorsal displacement of the soft palate (DDSP) is one of the most common obstructive conditions of the upper respiratory tract in the racehorse. This condition has a complex aetiology which may be caused or exacerbated by pharyngeal inflammation. Additionally, lower respiratory airway diseases may be associated with DDSP thereby contributing to exercise intolerance in these horses.
Objective: The aim of this study was to measure physiological variables during a standardised exercise test and to assess the prevalence and consequences of lower respiratory airway disease in horses with DDSP.
Methods: A total of 46 horses were included in this study: 22 in the control and 24 in the DDSP groups. All horses performed a SET with measurement of heart rate (HR) and blood lactate concentration. One hour post exercise, respiratory samples were collected for cytological and bacteriological analysis.
Results: During exercise, the DDSP group had higher blood lactate concentration than the control group. According to BAL results, 50 and 63% of control and DDSP group horses, respectively, had evidence of inflammatory airway disease (IAD). In the DDSP group, 42% of horses had a syndrome of tracheal inflammation (STI) with 71% of this group having bacteria isolated at >105 CFU/ml.
Conclusions: Horses with DDSP showed evidence of a high prevalence of IAD and STI with an associated positive bacteriology in 55% of the cases. Even if DDSP is treated by surgery, the authors' recommendation would be to investigate the possibility of lower respiratory airway problems which may also be impacting the horse's performance and/or surgery efficiency.