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Amputations & Neurological Conditions

August 2019 - Equine Nutrition

With so many supplements and grain options, how should you know what to feed? Join us this month as our expert, Dr. Alison Cornwall answers your questions concerning equine nutrition.



Click here to read this month's questions and answers.

Amputations & Neurological Conditions


  1. Is wobbler syndrome hereditary? (View Answer)

    Horses with “Wobbler Syndrome” have damage to the spinal cord (most often the cervical portion) and this damage can be the result of infections, trauma, developmental abnormalities, nutritional deficiencies and excesses and even cancer. Horses with wobbler disease or Cervical Vertebral Malformation are part of the Wobbler Syndrome. Wobbler disease horses with malformations of the cervical spinal vertebra are most often seen in males in the Thoroughbred, Warmblood and Tennessee Walking horse breeds. This would suggest that genetics does play a part in the developmental aspect but it may often be only a predisposing cause as nutritional imbalances, rapid growth and some trauma often are required to produce the clinical signs.

    When considering to breed a stallion or a mare with a history of being a “Wobbler” it is important to determine what the specific cause was (EPM infections probably do not have a genetic cause) and vitamin E deficiency is more likely a management problem (lack of green grass or Vitamin E supplements). I would recommend cervical radiographs to see if any malformations are present. The diet to the pregnant mare should be monitored carefully, especially for trace mineral deficiency such as copper.  Barrie Grant, DVM, MS, DACVS, Bonsall, California

  2. How do Wobblers and Shivers differ? (View Answer)

    Horses with shivers usually have more spastic movements of the hind legs, especially when backing than horses with “Wobblers.” Shivers horses do not show clinical signs of incoordination or ataxia . "Wobblers" can have spastic movements of the hind legs that can mimic the signs of shivers, especially if they have a concurrent hind leg lameness condition such as a foot abscess or arthritis of the joints of the lower legs. Recently, it has been shown that Shivers have a problem with the Purkinje cell axons in the cerebellum. The clinical signs of wobblers are a result of  damage to the spinal cord (most often the cervical portion) due to malformation, trauma, infections (EPM or Herpes) or nutritional deficiencies such as Vitamin E or trace minerals. Barrie Grant, DVM, MS, DACVS, Bonsall, California

  3. I lost an OTTB to an unknown neurological event after a gun shot event. He was shot in the leg with a small caliber gun that resulted in infection in his leg before we knew anything was wrong. After the veterinarian removed the bullet, he put him in a compression bandage. The wound healed over time (6 months) but Billy started having neurological seizures that lasted longer and longer until we had to euthanize. The vet said she believed the swelling and wound track forced his lymph nodes to over react to the infection from the gun shot. My question is: how common is this type of reaction to large or systemic wounds? Is there anything outside of treating the wound as effective and quickly as possible to reduce the possibility of complication such as this? Or, was this a latent issue that would have been triggered regardless of treatment protocol? I realize you don't have any specifics regarding Billy, but gun shot wounds are somewhat common and I'd like to know if there is anything else to keep in mind when dealing with a long-term wound treatment and the possibility of neurological complication. (View Answer)

    This is an unusual history and without knowing the type of neurological signs ( seizures vs ataxia ) and how soon after the incident, it becomes more difficult. Historically, gunshot wounds often caused severe Clostridium infection, which might manifest as neurological signs, but these usually were associated with the acute injury. When the bullets were made of lead and the lead bullets remained in the tissues, there may have been subtle signs such as roaring. However, this does not seem to be the case with your horse. It is reported that lead bullets do not dissolve in the tissues because of the high pH. If you had any videos captured on your cell phone, I would be willing to give an opinion. Barrie Grant, DVM, MS, DACVS, Bonsall, California