Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Experts disagree on horses with incoordination

Date:
April 10, 2014
Source:
University of Copenhagen
Summary:
At least one in 100 horses at some point in its life will lose the ability to control its gait as a result of developing the neurological disorder ataxia. Once found to be ataxic, the horse is often put down, or undergoes an expensive operation with dubious results. But now researchers have shown that there is marked disagreement among veterinary surgeons about whether or not a horse is ataxic.

Horses. At least one in 100 horses at some point in its life will lose the ability to control of its gait as a result of developing the neurological disorder ataxia.
Credit: Rita Kochmarjova / Fotolia

At least one in 100 horses at some point in its life will lose the ability to control of its gait as a result of developing the neurological disorder ataxia. Once found to be ataxic, the horse is often put down, or undergoes an expensive operation with dubious results. But now researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the Royal Veterinary College in the UK have shown that there is marked disagreement among veterinary surgeons about whether or not a horse is ataxic.

Related Articles


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 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 completed a questionnaire, and based on their responses we could see that there was wide disagreement on whether or not they believed a horse was ataxic, and particularly on the severity of the ataxia," says Dr. Emil Olsen.

Quantifiable diagnostics

Horse owners and veterinarians often assume horses with mild ataxia are mildly lame, allowing ataxia to progress to the point of sudden falls during riding or handling. If the disease is discovered when the horse is a foal, treatment options can include restrictive feeding, and at all ages there is a surgery to stabilise the neck by fusing the cervical vertebrae. For horses with ataxia caused by articular process joint (facet joint) osteoarthritis, injecting steroids into the joint can improve the horse's condition for a period of time.

"We hope that our findings will lead to the establishment of clearer definitions for what constitutes normal and abnormal gait patterns in horses, and the relationship between spinal cord disease and ataxia. This could lead to greater agreement among specialists and practising veterinarians. The current disparity also raises the need for quantitative diagnostics, using equipment that can measure the horse's movements in detail."

If you have a horse you suspect is ataxic, contact your veterinarian for further advice.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Copenhagen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. Olsen, B. Dunkel, W.H.J. Barker, E.J.T. Finding, J.D. Perkins, T.H. Witte, L.J. Yates, P.H. Andersen, K. Baiker, R.J. Piercy. Rater Agreement on Gait Assessment during Neurologic Examination of Horses. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 2014; 28 (2): 630 DOI: 10.1111/jvim.12320

Cite This Page:

University of Copenhagen. "Experts disagree on horses with incoordination." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140410095531.htm>.
University of Copenhagen. (2014, April 10). Experts disagree on horses with incoordination. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140410095531.htm
University of Copenhagen. "Experts disagree on horses with incoordination." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140410095531.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins