Non-invasive ventilatory support for foals

Charles Sturt University

  • Project code: PRJ-011159

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Tuesday, October 2, 2018

  • Project completion date: Saturday, October 31, 2020

  • National Priority: HOR-Thoroughbred breeding


Breathing difficulties and lung disease are common in foals and may be transient immediately after birth, or may be related to prematurity, infectious disease or other conditions. This project will continue work by the research team on non-invasive support of respiration in neonatal foals using commercially-available, positive airway pressure (PAP) devices used for at home care of respiratory conditions in people. This approach promises to increase our ability to support foals with breathing difficulties more effectively than by administration of oxygen alone, but without implementation of invasive ventilation procedures that are technically demanding and usually cost-prohibitive in equine patients. In human babies, the use of non-invasive respiratory support of this type has greatly improved care of neonates with respiratory disease, evidenced by outcome measures including increased survival, reduced reliance on mechanical ventilation and subsequently reduced incidence of hospital-acquired respiratory infection and other complications. The project will be conducted in two parts, both over two consecutive years. The first part will compare biPAP and autoPAP in healthy foals with drug-induced (reversible) respiratory insufficiency. The second part of the study will be conducted as a multicentre, prospective trial evaluating biPAP in foals with respiratory disease presented to the Veterinary Clinical Centre at Charles Sturt University (CSU) or Scone Equine Hospital (SEH). The result of this project will be objective evaluation of these respiratory support strategies in research foals and clinical cases, and hence improved care of foals with respiratory disease on farm and in specialist equine hospitals.


Thoroughbred Horses

Research Organisation

Charles Sturt University

Objective Summary

The objective of this proposal is the evaluation of novel methods (biPAP and autoPAP) of respiratory support for foals with breathing difficulties. On the basis of these studies, the outcome of this project will be strategies for improved respiratory support of newborn foals that are cost effective and can be utilised in equine veterinary hospitals or on-farm using equipment that can be purchased ‘off the shelf’ and avoiding the need for ventilation. The project addresses R&D objective 2 (reduce the impact of disease, improvement in prevention and treatment of priority diseases) by delivering improved care and treatment outcomes for foals with respiratory disease.