Researchers at the University of California, Davis report that headshaking is significantly diminished when horses are given an IV of magnesium sulfate. A study, led by Dr. Shara Sheldon, used six geldings that had not responded well to conventional treatment for headshaking, investigated magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) as a potential treatment.
Headshaking related to the trigeminal nerve causes facial pain, but is not well understood. It affects around 1 percent of horses to the point that veterinary attention is needed; affected horses often shake their heads violently up and down, and tend to act as if their skin is tingling or itchy, rubbing their nose on their legs or striking at their face in an attempt to find relief.
The study set out to find if magnesium could lessen the effects of neuropathic pain, which could lead to a decrease in head shaking. The six used were all displaying head-shaking behavior at the time of the study. The study lasted for 5 weeks and each horse received an IV infusion once a week of either a dextrose or a magnesium and dextrose solution. The horse's headshaking behavior was recorded before the infusion, and then at 15, 30, 60 and 120 minutes after the infusion while the horse walked, trotted and cantered. Blood was also drawn from each horse and tested.
The horses that received the magnesium sulfate solution had 29 percent reduction in headshaking. Though exactly why magnesium reduced pain is not known, the team recommends future studies to investigate how magnesium can be supplemented for long-term use in horses that suffer from headshaking.
Read more at HorseTalk.
Read the study here.
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