Prevalence of pharyngeal and laryngeal abnormalities in Thoroughbreds racing in Australia, and their association with performance


Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, 601 Tharp St, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


Reasons for performing study: Little information is available regarding the prevalence of abnormalities of the upper airway and their association with performance in the general population of Thoroughbred racehorses.

Objectives: To describe the prevalence of selected abnormalities of the upper airway and their association with performance in Thoroughbred racehorses in Australia.

Hypothesis: That abnormalities of the upper airway of Thoroughbred racehorses are associated with poor race performance.

Methods: Rhinolaryngoscopy was performed after racing and presence and characteristics of abnormalities of the larynx and pharynx were recorded in a prospective cross-sectional study of Thoroughbred horses racing in Victoria, Australia.

Results: Rhinolaryngoscopy was performed once on each of 744 horses over 3.5 months. Fifty abnormalities of the upper airway were detected in 47 horses (6.3%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 4.7–8.3%). Epiglottic entrapment was detected in 7 horses (0.9%, 95% CI 0.4–1.9%) and was significantly (P = 0.015) associated with superior performance. Grade 2 asymmetry (4 grade scale) of the left arytenoid cartilage was detected in 9 horses (1.2%, 95% CI 0.5–2.4%) and was also associated with superior performance (P<0.001). Ulceration or erosion of the mucosa of the axial surface of one or both arytenoids was detected in 18 horses (2.4%, 95% CI 1.3–3.8%) and was not associated with alterations in exercise performance (P = 0.31).

Conclusions: Epiglottic entrapment, Grade 2 laryngeal asymmetry and mucosal erosions detected in Thoroughbred racehorses were not associated with impaired performance; therefore, surgical correction and concern over laryngeal function in horses with Grade 2 asymmetry may not be necessary in individuals performing to expectation.