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Association between dynamic upper airway obstructions and fitness parameters in Standardbred racehorses during high-speed treadmill exercise

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  • 1 Equine Sports Medicine Laboratory “Franco Tradati,” Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, Università Degli Studi di Milano, Lodi, Italy
  • | 2 Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, Università Degli Studi di Milano, Lodi, Italy

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To evaluate the association between the severity of dynamic upper airway obstruction (DUAO) and selected fitness parameters in Standardbred racehorses measured by treadmill test.

ANIMALS

191 Standardbred racehorses that underwent a standardized diagnostic protocol for poor performance evaluation between 2002 and 2021 at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, University of Milan.

PROCEDURES

Horses underwent a diagnostic protocol including clinical examination, lameness evaluation, laboratory analyses, ECG, resting upper airway endoscopy, metabolic incremental treadmill test, high-speed treadmill endoscopy, postexercise tracheobronchoscopy, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid cytology. On the basis of findings of the high-speed treadmill endoscopy, horses were divided into the following groups: no DUAO, mild DUAO (medial deviation of the aryepiglottic folds or epiglottic entrapment), severe DUAO (dorsal displacement of the soft palate, nasopharyngeal collapse, dynamic laryngeal collapse, or epiglottic retroversion), and multiple DUAOs (different forms of DUAO occurring concomitantly). Fitness parameters, measured by incremental treadmill test, included speed at a heart rate of 200 bpm (V200), speed and heart rate at a lactate concentration of 4 mmol/L (VLa4, HRLa4), peak lactate, maximum speed, maximum hematocrit, and minimum pH. Data were compared between groups by use of descriptive and statistical analyses.

RESULTS

Horses affected by severe or multiple DUAOs showed lower V200 and VLa4, compared to the no-DUAO group; horses with multiple DUAOs also had higher peak lactate concentrations compared to horses without DUAOs.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

While mild forms of DUAO do not affect athletic capacity, severe forms of DUAO and multiple DUAOs may lead to reduced fitness in Standardbred racehorses by impairing aerobic capacity.

Contributor Notes

Corresponding author: Dr. Ferrucci (francesco.ferrucci@unimi.it)