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Gutteral- Pouch Infections In The Horse

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

The guttural pouches are air-filled sacs located along the sides of the throat, just behind the angle of the jaw. They open into the upper throat through two slit-like openings that are visible with an endoscope.

Because the guttural pouch is in close proximity to the infected tissues of a horse with a strangles infection, if an infection gains access to this area, swelling will occur along the back edge of the jaw bone, giving the horse's head a blown-up appearance.

Classically, a horse with guttural-pouch infection will have a thick, white-yellow nasal discharge on one side only--the side where the guttural pouch is infected. Irritation of the throat from the drainage may cause cough, but coughing is not usually a major problem. I large amounts of pus are trapped in the pouch, swelling may occur behind the jaw bone, from just below the base of the ear to the throat level.

Chronic guttural-pouch infections may be bacterial or fungal. Fungal is particularly dangerous, since these organisms may invade deeply into the walls of the guttural pouch and damage blood vessels and nerves.

Because there are important arterial and nervous structures lying close to the guttural pouches, the veterinarian will probably use an endoscope and pass catheters/tubes inside the guttural pouches to flush them out and infuse medications. These tubes may be left in place to provide an avenue of drainage and allow further treatments. Intramuscular or intravenous antibiotics and/or antifungals may also be recommended.

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