Does Asthma Play A Role in DDSP? 

Dorsal displacement of the soft palate (DDSP) is a relatively common, performance-limiting condition in horses where the soft palate shifts to obstruct the horse’s airway, usually while the horse is working. Once the soft palate has moved, the horse generally must swallow and slow down to move it back.

 Much research has been done on upper respiratory tract conditions that may cause DDSP, but little attention has been paid to the possible role lower-airway conditions like asthma might play. 

Drs. Kinga Joó, ÁgnesPovázsai, Zsófia Nyerges-Bohák, Ottó Szenci and Orsolya Kutasi completed endoscopic examinations of 53 pleasure and sport horses at rest and while exercising. Twenty-two of the horses had mild or moderate asthma while 31 horses were severely asthmatic. They also collected mucus from the trachea and lower airways using a tracheal wash and bronchoalveolar lavage. 

The scientists used a nasal occlusion test on resting horses. This test mimics pressure changes that might occur while the horse is working. This test caused the soft palate to displace in many of the horses.  

The team found that 65 percent of the horses with mild asthma had soft palates that displaced during the nasal occlusion test; 79 percent of horses with severe asthma displaced their palate during the nasal occlusion test. All of the horses with severe asthma had DDSP while exercising. 

Horses that had DDSP coughed, but didn’t make the typical gurgling sound heard in racehorses when their soft palate slips. The research team suggests that this may be because the horses have a lower rate of airflow than racehorses. 

The team recommends that veterinarians treat the upper and lower respiratory tracts as one unit since lower respiratory tract disease, including asthma, can cause upper-respiratory dysfunction and upper-respiratory obstructions can be a factor in lower-respiratory issues.

Read more at Equine Science Update

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