What is Guttural Pouch Tympany?
Guttural pouch tympany may be present in one or both pouches. Clinical signs of GPT may be seen as early as hours after the foal is born. Research show that GPT effect more female foals more than males. Arabian and Hanoverian breeds are more predisposed to GPT. Guttural pouch tympany can also be found in other breeds such as the American Saddle Horse, Quarter Horse, Appaloosa and the English Thoroughbred.
Guttural pouches are located on both sides of the foal’s head near the upper mandibles; they are mucosal sacs of the Eustachian tubes (auditory tubes). Guttural pouch tympany is a condition where air flows through the ear canal and then gets trapped inside the guttural pouch. As more air gets trapped in the guttural pouches, the pouches enlarge, which then cause the pharynx and larynx to be compressed.
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Symptoms of Guttural Pouch Tympany in Horses
Symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Swelling in the cheeks
- Swallowing problems
- Labored breathing
- Distended nostrils
- Milk discharged through the nostrils
- Difficulty nursing
- Respiratory infections
Causes of Guttural Pouch Tympany in Horses
Guttural pouch tympany is a congenital disease in horses, which means the foal is born with GPT. The exact cause of guttural pouch tympany is unknown. Horses diagnosed with guttural pouch tympany should not be allowed to breed because they would be passing on the genetic condition to the offspring.
Diagnosis of Guttural Pouch Tympany in Horses
Diagnostic tests included in the evaluation of your foal may include:
- Complete blood count - Checks the count of platelets, red and white blood cells; this helps determine if there is a bacterial infection
- Fecal exam - Can help diagnose parasites and if there is any blood in the feces
- Urinalysis - Checks for kidney function, crystals, blood or bacteria in the urine
A veterinarian will be able to diagnose the guttural pouch tympany by a physical examination of your horse. Diagnostic testing may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis and to make sure there are no secondary conditions. The veterinarian will recommend x-rays of the foal’s head. If the veterinary doctor heard fluid in the foal’s lungs, chest x-rays may also be suggested. The veterinarian may also choose to perform an endoscopic examination. The endoscope is inserted through the nostril and moves along the respiratory tract. The procedure allows the veterinarian to have a visual of the guttural pouch. The foal will need to be sedated for this procedure.
Treatment of Guttural Pouch Tympany in Horses
Once guttural pouch tympany is diagnosed, the veterinarian may insert a temporary catheter into the pouch to release the trapped air. This will give the foal some relief from the pressure in his airway. He will also be able to nurse normally. If a bacterial infection was found, the veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics. He may also recommend a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, analgesic drug such as flunixin.
The permanent solution for guttural pouch tympany is surgery to correct the defect. The equine veterinarian may choose to do laser surgery instead of traditional surgery. The laser can make an opening from the pharynx straight into the guttural pouch. The foal is given a sedative and does not have to undergo general anesthesia. Laser surgery causes less bleeding and swelling. The recovery time is much faster than conventional surgery because with less swelling the tissue heals quicker. This procedure can be done on an outpatient basis.
Recovery of Guttural Pouch Tympany in Horses
Once your foal is release from his surgical procedure the equine surgeon will provide you with post-operative instructions. Your equine companion will be prescribed limited exercise. Follow-up visits are necessary to monitor the foal’s progress and to remove the sutures. The veterinarian may recommend keeping the foal on antibiotics, to ensure that there are no postoperative infections. Prognosis of guttural pouch tympany is very good. The foal should be able to return to his regular exercise activity within a few weeks. Once your foal is better, it is recommended he should be seen by a veterinarian once a year for a wellness check.