Wry Nose in Horses?

Q:I would like information on wry nose (laterally deviated rostral maxilla). I had a foal born with it and never heard of it before then. I would like to know what causes it and any other information about this condition. Also, how common is it in horses?


Wry Nose

A: Wry nose, or deviated rostral maxilla and associated nasal septal deviation, is a congenital deformity in the horse (he is born with it). There is no good evidence that wry nose in the horse is heritable (has a genetic predisposition). No one really knows what causes it, but as with other congenital deformities, it might result from malpositioning in the uterus. Wry-nosed foals might result in dystocia (difficult foaling), and can also have other deformities of the neck and occasionally of the limbs. It is not common--although we can't really name an exact percentage of affected foals.

A foal with wry nose will have the upper jaw and nose deviated or turned to one side. A deviated nasal septum (the cartilage plate that separates the right and left nasal passageways) is also usually present, which results in obstruction of the airway and difficulty breathing. This is the greatest functional concern with wry nose. There will usually be malocclusion (poor alignment) of the teeth, although most foals can still nurse and in most cases are bright and active.

Very mild cases of wry nose might resolve on their own with time. More severe deviations will need to be treated surgically. Radiographs of the head will help the veterinarian assess the severity and recommend treatment options.

Surgical correction is generally undertaken in multiple stages. This type of reconstructive surgery is expensive and requires significant aftercare. Although the objective of the surgery is usually to make the horse capable of being an athlete, unfortunately, neither the functional or cosmetic outcome can be guaranteed.

About the Author

Nancy Diehl, VMD, MS

Prior to attending veterinary school, Dr. Nancy Diehl completed a master’s degree in animal science while studying stallion sexual behavior. Later, she completed a residency in large animal internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center and worked in equine practices in Missouri and Pennsylvania. Diehl also spent six years on faculty at Penn State, where she taught equine science and behavior courses and advised graduate students completing equine behavior research. Additionally, Diehl has co-authored scientific papers on stallion behavior, early intensive handling of foals, and feral horse contraception. Currently she is a practicing veterinarian in central Pennsylvania.

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