An Update on Wobbler Syndrome

by | 02.01.2015 | 12:30pm

Researchers at the University of Kentucky say there's still much to learn about Wobbler Syndrome, but veterinarians are having increased success using CT and MRI scans to help diagnose the illness.

Wobbler Syndrome, also called cervical stenotic myelopathy (CSM), is a neurologic disease caused by deformities of the neck vertebrae in horses. This causes a narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of the spinal cord.

Diagnostic tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) help show lesions along the spinal cord.  These tools also allow vets to visualize the vertebrae and the surrounding soft tissue, producing a more-accurate diagnosis and treatment protocol.

The exact cause of Wobbler Syndrome remains unclear, and many factors appear to contribute to this disease, including alterations in zinc and copper concentrations, genetics and increased growth rate.

A diagnosis of Wobblers is typically made after a thorough neurological exam takes place. This exam looks for a lack of coordination of movement. Next, the vet may take an X-ray of the neck to see if narrowing of the spinal canal is visible.

Treatment of a horse diagnosed with Wobbler Syndrome focuses on changing the diet and administering anti-inflammatories to slow growth rate and reduce swelling. Surgeries that attempt to alleviate spinal cord compression are also an option.

This disease has earned the common name “Wobbler Syndrome” as an afflicted horse typically has an abnormal gait and is unsteady on his feet, as if he has had sedation. The severity of the disease will determine what quality of life a Wobbler might have. In some cases, euthanasia may be the best option for the safety of both horse and handlers.

Male horses are affected by this disease more than mares, and Thoroughbreds, Warmbloods, Tennessee Walking Horses and American Saddlebreds are all afflicted by the disease. Wobblers typically presents in horses under the age of two.

Read more at Equine Disease Quarterly.

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