A trip to the veterinarian may prove fatal to a horse, even if it is not necessary to put the animal down. In Europe if the horse is found to be ataxic, which is most often due to the disease 'wobbler syndrome', the horse is likely to be put down immediately. If a horse suffers from this disease, putting it down can be a necessity, as the animal can be dangerous to ride and handle. But now new research from the University of Copenhagen and the Royal Veterinary College in the UK shows marked disagreement among experts about when a horse is ataxic and severity of the ataxia. It is particularly a problem if the ataxia is subtle, as this makes it more difficult to assess.
"It is a problem for both the horse and the owner if the specialists disagree. A horse which could potentially recover might be put down, as an ataxic horse eventually becomes a hazard to the owner due to the risk of a fall during riding or handling," says Emil Olsen, DVM, PhD from the Department of Large Animal Sciences, who headed up the new research.
The results were recently published in the prestigious Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
No scanners for horses
Ataxia caused by Wobbler syndrome affects one in 100 horses, and is one of the greatest sources of missed training days and frustration for horse owners and veterinarians alike. The disease occurs due to pressure on the cervical spinal cord, which can be diagnosed in humans and small animals by MRI or CT scans - but there are no scanners with a diameter large enough to accommodate a horse's neck and shoulders. The foundation of the veterinarian's assessment is therefore the clinical examination of small changes and irregularities in the horse's gait.
"In this study, specialists in the areas of large animal internal medicine , specialists in equine surgery, and residents evaluated the gait during a neurological examination of 25 horses, and then videos of the horses. They c
|Contact: Emil Olsen, Ph.D.|
University of Copenhagen