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Evaluation of survival rate and athletic ability after nonsurgical or surgical treatment of cleft palate in horses: 55 cases (1986–2008)

Shannon J. Murray DVM, MSc, DACVS1, Yvonne A. Elce DVM, DACVS2, J. Brett Woodie DVM, MSc, DACVS3, Rolf M. Embertson DVM, DACVS4, James T. Robertson DVM, DACVS5, and Warren L. Beard DVM, MSc, DACVS6
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  • 1 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
  • | 2 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
  • | 3 Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, 2150 Georgetown Rd, Lexington, KY 40511.
  • | 4 Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, 2150 Georgetown Rd, Lexington, KY 40511.
  • | 5 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
  • | 6 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.

Abstract

Objective—To determine survival rate and athletic ability after nonsurgical or surgical treatment of cleft palate in horses.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—55 horses with cleft palate.

Procedures—13 of the 55 horses died or were euthanized without treatment and were not included in all analyses. Medical records were reviewed for signalment, history, method of diagnosis, soft or hard palate involvement, type of surgical procedure performed, postoperative complications, and survival to hospital discharge. Information on athletic ability was acquired from race records and follow-up conversations with owners, trainers, or referring veterinarians.

Results—The predominant reason for initial evaluation was milk or feed in the nostrils (60%). The diagnosis was confirmed by means of videoendoscopy of the upper portion of the airway in all cases. Most cases involved the soft palate only (92.7%). Twenty-six of the 55 (47.3%) horses underwent surgical repair, and 12 of these had dehiscence at the caudal edge of the soft palate. Among potential racehorses, 14 of 33 had surgery. Of these, 12 of 14 survived to discharge and 2 horses raced. Among potential racehorses, 10 of 33 were discharged without surgery and 2 of these raced. Among nonracehorses, 12 of 22 underwent surgery and 11 survived to discharge. All horses that were discharged and for which follow-up information was available survived to 2 years of age or older without ill thrift despite dehiscence at the caudal edge of the soft palate and continued mild nasal discharge.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Horses with cleft palate had a higher survival rate than previously reported.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Murray's present address is Rhinebeck Equine LLP, 26 Losee Ln, Rhinebeck, NY 12572. Dr. Elce's present address is Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Montreal, Saint-Hyacinthe, QC J2S 2M2, Canada. Dr. Robertson's present address is Woodland Run Equine Veterinary Facility, 1474 Borror Rd, Grove City, OH 43123. Dr. Beard's present address is Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.

Presented in poster format at the American College of Veterinary Surgeons 19th Annual Scientific Meeting, Washington, DC, October 2009.

The authors thank Marc Hardman for technical assistance and Dr. Brad White for statistical analysis.

Address correspondence to Dr. Murray (smurray@rhinebeckequine.com).