Easy Breathing for Dickens

A performance evaluation led to uncovering a paranasal sinus cyst obstructing airflow through the horse’s right sinus.

Respiratory health can easily be overlooked. Unlike with a horse’s gaits, owners and riders do not typically pay close attention to a horse’s breathing for subtle irregularities or inconsistencies. Yet, respiratory function must be up to par for an equine athlete to pump the voluminous amounts of air in and out of their lungs required during exercise. When the horse’s respiratory system is not functioning up to par, the horse could have labored breathing, exercise intolerance, and prolonged recovery after exercise.

As rider Madison Aguilar was bringing Dickens – a 14-year-old Quarter Horse – back into a training program, she noticed some performance issues under saddle. She scheduled a performance evaluation with Dr. Meredith Mitchell to assess Dickens before moving forward with training and increasing his workload. As Dr. Mitchell was watching Dickens being ridden, she saw his breathing was exacerbated after only light work. She went up to him, simply held her hands over his nostrils, and noticed that there was no airflow coming out of his right nostril.

After taking digital radiographs (x-rays) of the horse’s head, Dr. Mitchell identified a paranasal sinus cyst responsible for Dickens’ breathing troubles.

Dickens Before Surgery radiography
Radiograph of Dickens used to identify a paranasal cyst.

To relieve Dickens, they scheduled surgery to remove the paranasal sinus cyst with board-certified equine surgeon Dr. Weston Davis. Once at the Equine Hospital, Dr. Davis used an endoscope to examine inside the horse’s nasal passages. They found two cystic structures in his right maxillary sinus and then proceeded with a standing maxillary flap surgery to remove the cysts.

Dickens surgery palm beach equine clinic paranasal sinus cysts

“We sent the cysts for pathology tests and luckily the results showed they were benign,” said Dr. Mitchell. “Reoccurrence of the cysts is unlikely, but we will follow up with radiographs six months post-surgery to make sure Dickens is still healthy, happy, and able to breathe easy.”

“I am so thankful to my vet for being the best at her job and the whole crew at Palm Beach Equine Clinic for making sure this boy was comfortable and recovering well during his time in the hospital.”

Madison Aguilar
Dickens success story post surgery

Dickens is now home and on the road to recovery with full, unobstructed breathing. Subtle and gradual changes in a horse’s health, behavior, and performance can be difficult to pinpoint. Routine performance exams and wellness checkups can be key to uncovering these subtle issues and taking action to address problems early on.

Whenever there is a question involving the health and well-being of your horse, do not hesitate to call your Palm Beach Equine veterinarian at 561-793-1599.

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