What the Dickens! Sinus cyst revealed as cause of horse’s below-par performance

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A radiograph (X-ray) of Dickens was used to identify a paranasal cyst.
A radiograph (X-ray) of Dickens was used to identify a paranasal cyst. © Palm Beach Equine Clinic

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 Madison Aguilar was bringing her 14-year-old quarter horse Dickens back into work, she noticed some performance issues under saddle. She called on Dr Meredith Mitchell of the Palm Beach Equine Clinic for a performance evaluation on Dickens before moving forward with training and increasing his workload. Mitchell saw that Dickens’ 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.

Dr Weston Davis removed the paranasal sinus cyst that was giving Dickens breathing problems.
Dr Weston Davis removed the paranasal sinus cyst that was giving Dickens breathing problems. © Palm Beach Equine Clinic

After taking digital x-rays of his head, Mitchell identified a paranasal sinus cyst that was responsible for Dickens’ breathing troubles.

After Dickens was admitted to the equine hospital, equine surgeon Dr Weston Davis used an endoscope to examine inside the horse’s nasal passages. There were two cystic structures in his right maxillary sinus. Davis undertook standing maxillary flap surgery to remove the cysts.

Dickens is on the road to recovery following surgery to remove a paranasal sinus cyst.
Dickens is on the road to recovery following surgery to remove a paranasal sinus cyst. © Madison Aguilar

The cysts were sent for pathology and were found to be benign, Mitchell said. “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.”

Dickens is now home and on the road to recovery with full, unobstructed breathing, and his owner is grateful.

“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,” Aguilar said.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic

 

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