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Pet Owner Version

Epiglottic Entrapment in Horses


Bonnie R. Rush

, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Equine Internal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University

Reviewed/Revised May 2019 | Modified Oct 2022

Epiglottic entrapment is an uncommon cause of respiratory noise and exercise intolerance. The epiglottis is a flap of tissue that, in normal situations, functions something like a “trap door” to keep food from entering the trachea and airways while the animal is swallowing. In this disease, the epiglottis is partially trapped by other tissues and cannot move normally. Signs of epiglottic entrapment include respiratory noise during exercise and poor exercise performance. Less common signs include cough, nasal discharge, and headshaking. Diagnosis is determined by endoscopic examination. The condition can be corrected by surgery to free the epiglottis and allow it to move normally. This procedure generally cures the condition and has a relapse rate of only 5%.

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