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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Resolved Aspiration Pneumonia

Approximately 2 months ago a young warm blood gelding presented for a 4-6 month history of chronic coughing, bilateral nasal discharge, poly-synovitis, and failure to thrive. At presentation, the gelding was in poor body condition and there was a moderate amount of nasal discharge which consisted of mucus mixed with feed/hay. Auscultation of the thorax noted abnormal lung sounds, bilaterally.  As I reported previously, endoscopic exam revealed feed material within the larynx and trachea (Figure 1 and 2). The feed material was noted through out the entire trachea and a trans-tracheal wash revealed the presence of feed material and bacteria in the cranial ventral lung lobes! The gelding was diagnosed with dysphagia and aspiration pneumonia.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Based on the trans-tracheal culture results the gelding was treated with oral antibiotics for 30 days. In addition, he was treated with systemic anti-inflammatory medication and systemic anti-arthritic medication. Once the antibiotic treatment was started, the coughing episodes subsided but were not completely abolished. The gelding began to gain weight and for the first time was seen laying down to sleep and roll in the pasture! A follow-up endoscopy performed at the end of 30 days of antibiotics revealed feed material within the larynx (Figure 3) and an intermittent dorsal displacement of the soft palate (Figure 4). Mild to moderate ulcerations were noted along the caudal edge of the soft palate when displaced. At this point, we were not sure what was going to happen once we stopped treating with antibiotics however based on the continued presence of feed material in the pharynx, it was assumed that a recurrence of aspiration pneumonia was soon to follow.

Figure 3
After discussing the limited options with the owner, it was decided to pursue acupuncture as a potential source of treatment. Dr. Marilyn Maler was asked to examine the gelding and provide her expert opinion and treatment options. She immediately instituted an acupuncture regiment that was directed at treating the horse's difficulty with swallowing among other points of interest. According to the owner, the gelding's cough improved significantly and in a short period of time was completely absent! The gelding continued to gain weight and has been eating "normally" for over 4 weeks. A follow-up exam was performed 2 days ago and the gelding's condition has improved so dramatically that I did not even recognize the horse!  Endoscopic exam noted NO feed material in the pharynx and normal lung sounds!! The gelding has a long way to go but our conversation has shifted from when might it be time to "do the humane thing" to when might it be time to ride him!!  This case is a strong reminder of the benefits of acupuncture for treating chronic diseases and I wish to extend a special thanks to Dr. Maler for all her help!!

Figure 4
Final note: On the day of the most recent exam, the gelding was feeling so good that he played hard to get. So, he was enticed with several hand fulls of feed just prior to the endoscopic exam. This happens to be a crude method of detecting dysphagia in horses and the gelding passed with flying colors!!

Figure 5

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