Neurologic Evaluations

We offer thorough neurologic evaluations to assess the underlying cause of your horse's problems whether the symptoms are severe & obvious or mild and masquerading as lameness or poor performance.  Subtle lameness can be terribly confounding for the horse owner.  Diseases of the spinal cord are common in the horse and the sooner they are addressed, the better the chances for a good outcome.

Spinal cord abnormalities can affect your horse’s performance

Sometimes the problem manifests with severe symptoms like incoordination or weakness as in West Nile Virus.  But often the signs are subtle, like a mild lameness that can't be pinned down in a lameness exam with flexions tests, nerve blocks etc.  It is essential that you have a veterinarian who is well-trained & skilled in the detection of spinal cord abnormalities looking at your horse.

The Veterinarians at Meddleton Equine are highly trained to detect and diagnose subtle Neurologic disease

  • Diseases of the spinal cord are common in the horse
  • Severe disease generally manifests as incoordination and weakness
  • Mild disease can masquerade as lameness and/or decreased performance
  • EPM and Wobbler syndrome are the most common spinal cord diseases of the horse
  • Early intervention is critical

There are many factors that can affect how a horse moves and performs

The most common cause of abnormal movement is pain originating from the feet, limbs, back, or muscles. However, it is not uncommon for abnormal performance or movement to be due to spinal chord abnormalities.

The spinal chord relays commands from the central nervous system (brain) to the peripheral nervous system (limbs) and sends back input from the limbs to the brain. The result is a system where the brain knows exactly where each limb is without requiring input from the eyes, and each limb seamlessly executes orders generated by the brain. When there is a problem with the spinal chord, this breaks down. In severe cases, the horse is unable to walk or even rise and appears severely uncoordinated and weak. In mild cases, there can be subtle changes such as inconsistent foot placement, mild decrease in muscle mass (due to decreased use), and mild weakness. Some of these only manifest as decreased performance.

The first step in troubleshooting these cases is a thorough examination

A veterinarian will determine if the problem is due to a spinal chord abnormality, musculoskeletal pain, or a combination of these.

As a complicating factor, horses with neurologic deficits are more prone to injury, so lameness and neurologic disease are often seen concurrently. The neurologic examination will establish a degree of severity that is based on how weak (paresis) and how uncoordinated (ataxia) a horse is. It also aims to determine if the abnormalities are symmetrical (is one side more affected than the other), and tries to determine the location of the problem (based on whether the forelimbs, hindlimbs, or both are affected). Once this has been established, adequate diagnostic tests can be recommended.

Two most common causes of neurologic abnormalities

  1. Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalopathy (EPM)
  2. Wobbler syndrome/ Cervical Vertebral Compression

There are dozens of other causes of neurologic abnormalities, but they are uncommon.  Screening for the two most common diseases is the first step and involves a blood test for EPM and radiographs of the vertebrae in the horse’s neck to evaluate the spinal canal.

Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalopathy (EPM)

A parasite that causes damage to the spinal chord as it migrates through it. EPM can be successfully treated with antiprotozoal medications.

Wobbler syndrome/Cervical Vertebral Compression

A disease where vertebrae are either unstable (pinch chord when moving) or malformed (constantly exert pressure) and lead to excessive pressure on the spinal chord.

Cervical Vertebral compression requires surgery for correction and not all horses are candidates for this.

To confirm that a horse has spinal chord compression and to determine if surgery would help it, a myelogram has to be performed. This is a test that is performed under general anesthesia. A dye that shows up brightly on radiographs is injected into the horse’s spinal canal, and multiple radiographs are taken with the neck relaxed, extended, and in flexion. This shows where and when compression is occurring. Horses that have 1 or 2 sites of compression in the cervical spine can be helped with surgery.

This conclusion paragraph is not in the other services, but it would be a good idea to include it on all services. Need to come up with heading for it too

Subtle Lameness or Unexplained Performance Problem?  Don't Wait!

Meddleton Equine is equipped to diagnose and treat these and many other forms of Neurologic disease. Rapid intervention to stop or slow down the injury to the spinal cord will result in better outcomes. Chronic cases with long standing spinal cord damage are less likely to improve.

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