Infection of the guttural pouch can be serious — even life-threatening. Fortunately, this type of equine infection is rare, but all horse owners should know the symptoms.
One of the main functions of the guttural pouch is temperature regulation. Its main purpose is to cool the brain through air circulation. It houses blood vessels, nerves and arteries.
Nerves in the guttural pouch control swallowing, breathing and chewing. Although there has been much research done this part of the equine anatomy, there’s still a lot to learn.
The guttural pouch spans from the inside surface of the eardrum down to the pharynx (the opening behind the mouth where the oral cavity and nasal passages meet; see illustration).
The most common causes of infection come from bacteria and fungi present within the pouch. Remember that the pouch aids in swallowing, chewing and breathing; horses naturally swallow and inhale environmental bacteria and fungi. In most cases a horse’s immune system fights off these microorganisms, but in some cases they become trapped in the guttural pouch, leading to infection.
Keep an eye out for some of the most common symptoms of guttural pouch:
There are several things a vet may do to diagnose guttural pouch infection, including taking X-rays or doing endoscopy. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are not usually used to diagnose guttural pouch infections because they take more time, often require anesthesia and many equine hospitals don’t have these machines on-site.
There are several types of guttural pouch disease:
1. Guttural Pouch Empyema
2. Guttural Pouch Mycosis
3. Guttural Pouch Tympany
4. Temporohyoid Osteoarthropathy
The best way to prevent guttural pouch disease is to keep your horse’s environment clean. Thankfully, infection rare, and serious cases are rarer still. But if you notice any of the symptoms listed above, contact your vet immediately as early diagnosis often results in better outcomes.
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