Chronic Sinus Infections/Flushing

Does your horse have a chronic snotty nose? Horses with chronic sinus infections often have mucous or a foul odor coming from one or both nostrils.  It may be everyday or only once or twice a week.

There are a few other conditions that should be ruled out before treating your horse for a sinus infection.  Your veterinarian can use an endoscope (scope) to look in the upper respiratory tract and make sure any mucous is not coming from the lungs (respiratory infection or inflammatory airway disease- IAD), or the guttural pouches (which can also be flushed).  


Once other sources are ruled out, the sinuses should be considered. Some times mucous can be seen coming from the sinus on endoscopic exam. Other causes of discharge from the sinus may be tooth root infections and masses present in the sinus, both of which may be diagnosed/ruled out by skull radiographs. Skull x-rays will also allow us to assess how much fluid is present in the sinus. Horses with sinus infections often don't act sick because the sinus is a bony cavity in the skull, and infections can fester for months before the rest of the body realizes it is sick.


A chronic nasal discharge is easy to ignore, but should be evaluated by your veterinarian and treated as soon as possible.


A new method of treating sinus infections allows us to flush the sinuses with sterile fluids and antibiotics without major skull surgery.


In the standing sedated horse the area is scrubbed and clipped and a large needle is used to create an access hole into the frontal and maxillary sinuses and fluid can be introduced at high pressure to remove debris and infection. The fluid and debris will drain from the nose. This can be repeated for 3-4 days as needed using the same hole. This can be done on farm and heals quickly with no stitches needed.

These images are of a 5 year old TB with chronic foul smelling nasal discharge, which did not resolve with systemic antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or changes in environment. She became systemically ill and was treated with sinus flushing for 3 days as well as systemic antibiotics. The nasal discharge did not return and she resumed her athletic career.