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I have been having serious problems with my 2 1/2 year old horse coughing. We took him Friday for an endoscope exam and was told he has a malfunctioning epiglottis. We were told there is no cure and no treatment, but that sometimes just letting the horse stay in the pasture for a year or so will help. Have you heard of this condition?

Thanks very much.

-- J. & K.


That flap over the windpipe may be relatively small, but it can produce big-time trouble when it causes aspiration pneumonia. The risk is similar to, but much less than, that caused by a cleft palate. Both can allow food to either plug the airway or become lodged in the lungs. Either situation can be life-threatening.

I suspect that the reason for the "sometimes" success of pasturing a horse with a malformed epiglottis may be two-fold: 1) such horses are especially prone to inhaling grain, and the larger size of a mouthful of grass may help the food slide past the airway; 2) as a young horse ages the epiglottis tends to firm up and may even change shape enough during the course of a year or so to provide a more normal amount of protection.

In addition to the pasturing approach, I'd suggest giving that horse a good dose of prayer. The outlook is guarded at best, as I'm sure you're aware, and in cases like this the "Great Physician" may be the only one who can pull the patient through. I've seen greater physical changes than the one you need that could only be attributed to prayer and a loving God.

I'll be praying with you... and please thank your vet for me for not simply giving up on your horse.

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