Com­mon Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders De­fined

Practical Horseman - - The Complete Hourglass -

Dis­or­ders of the horse’s cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem fall into mul­ti­ple cat­e­gories. These in­clude (but aren’t lim­ited to) de­gen­er­a­tive, nu­tri­tional, meta­bolic, im­mune-me­di­ated, toxic and in­fec­tious. “In adult horses, the most com­mon cat­e­gories would be de­gen­er­a­tive [arthri­tis], anatomic and in­fec­tious,” says Dr. John­son. The lat­ter cat­e­gory in­cludes vi­ral, bac­te­rial and par­a­sitic causes, she adds.

Here’s an overview of the causes, pre­ven­tions and treat­ments for the dis­eases dis­cussed. For in­for­ma­tion on di­ag­nos­ing these dis­or­ders, see pages 60–62.

Equine Pro­to­zoal Myeloen­cephali­tis

Cause: Horses be­come in­fected by con­sum­ing food or wa­ter con­tam­i­nated with opos­sum fe­ces con­tain­ing the par­a­site Sar­co­cys­tis neu­rona, which then moves into the horse’s cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem. Horses un­der 5 and over 13 may be at higher risk. Any­thing that com­pro­mises your horse’s im­mune sys­tem can also in­crease risk.

Preven­tion: Min­i­mize your horse’s ex­po­sure to opos­sum fe­ces. In ar­eas with opos­sum pop­u­la­tions, avoid feed­ing your horse off the ground and keep feed stored away safely.

Treat­ment: There are three FDA-ap­proved med­i­ca­tions to fight S. neu­rona— pon­azuril, di­clazuril and sul­fa­di­azine used in com­bi­na­tion with pyrimethamine. Some vets may also rec­om­mend a vi­ta­min E sup­ple­ment.

Eastern and Western Equine En­cephalomyeli­tis and West Nile Virus

Cause: These vi­ral dis­eases are spread by in­fected mosquitoes with the virus at­tack­ing the horse’s cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem. WEE is seen in western North Amer­ica and as far south as Ar­gentina. EEE has ap­peared in every U.S. state east of the Mis­sis­sippi as well as a few other states. West Nile virus is preva­lent over the en­tire U.S.

Preven­tion: Vac­ci­nate your horse as recommended by your vet­eri­nar­ian and prac­tice good mos­quito mit­i­ga­tion.

Treat­ment: There is no treat­ment for these dis­eases. Your vet can pro­vide sup­port­ive ther­apy—for in­stance, treat­ing a fever, pro­vid­ing in­tra­venous flu­ids and nu­tri­tion and treat­ing any sec­ondary in­fec­tions.

Equine Her­pesvirus-1

Cause: This vi­ral dis­ease is spread by di­rect horse-to-horse con­tact or with a con­tam­i­nated ob­ject, such as buck­ets, cloth­ing or skin that have been in con­tact with an in­fected horse. While many horses are ex­posed to the dis­ease early in life, the virus can be in­ac­tive for years and ap­pear dur­ing times of stress, like long-dis­tance trans-

port or stren­u­ous ex­er­cise.

Preven­tion: Vac­ci­nate. “The vac­ci­na­tion does not pro­tect the horse from the neu­ro­logic form of the dis­ease,” says Dr. John­son. “How­ever, it might help re­duce vi­ral spread dur­ing an out­break, lead­ing to fewer af­fected horses.” Be cau­tious of al­low­ing your horse to have con­tact with other horses or com­mu­nal wa­ter troughs at shows and other places where horses from dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions gather.

Treat­ment: Sup­port­ive care. An­tivi­ral drugs might help pre­vent dis­ease or limit its ef­fects, says Dr. John­son. Treat­ment for sec­ondary con­cerns might also be war­ranted, such as an­ti­in­flam­ma­to­ries or an­tibi­otics.

Wob­bler Syn­drome

(Also known as cer­vi­cal ver­te­bral stenotic myelopa­thy or cer­vi­cal ver­te­bral mal­for­ma­tion)

Causes: Wob­blers af­fects the horse’s neck and may be caused by bone mal­for­ma­tion, malar­tic­u­la­tion, de­vel­op­men­tal bone dis­ease or arthri­tis. The com­mon re­sult is that the ver­te­brae press against the spinal cord, caus­ing com­pres­sion that can in­ter­fere with nerve mes­sages trav­el­ing from the brain to the limbs.

Preven­tion: None. “Breed­ing horses known to have wob­blers is not recommended,” notes Dr. John­son. “Push­ing young horses for rapid growth might con­trib­ute to dis­ease in ge­net­i­cally pre­dis­posed in­di­vid­u­als.”

Treat­ment: Depend­ing on the cause, treat­ment in­cludes surgery, an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory med­i­ca­tion, phys­io­ther­apy, stall rest or nu­tri­tional changes.

Many com­mon neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases can be pre­vented through the use of cer­tain vac­cines, as recommended by your vet.

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